Quicksilver Frans Hals

Frans Hals in the Metropolitan Museum

an exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City, July 26–October 10, 2011

Hals was a painter of instantaneity, of the secular, everyday here and now. He delineates the second when, cast in a precise but never excessive or dramatizing light, a portrait subject comes before us as a breathing character, someone we think we know a little. It is Hals’s feeling for the singular moment, person, and degree of illumination that sets him apart from his peers as a portraitist—whether those who came before him (such as Holbein or Giovanni Battista Moroni in the sixteenth century), or were his contemporaries in Holland and elsewhere (such as Rembrandt, van Dyck, Rubens, or Velázquez), or came later (such as Reynolds and Gainsborough in the eighteenth century and Ingres and Thomas Lawrence in the early nineteenth century).

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