Frans Hals: Portrait of a Preacher

Frans Hals (1582/83 – 1666) was one of three famous painters who, along with Vermeer and Rembrandt, defined the Dutch Golden Age of painting in the 17th century.

Hals was trained by the Mannerist painter, Karel van Mander, who instructed his students to paint either “neat” (precisely) or “rough” (without great detail).  His star pupil came to master this rough style, ultimately becoming one of the most famous Dutch painters in art history.

Frans Hals. Portrait of a Preacher, ca. 1660. Oil on panel, 14 1/4" by 11 7/8". The Rose-Marie and Eijk van Otterloo Collection, currently on loan to Yale University Art Gallery.

Frans Hals. Portrait of a Preacher, ca. 1660. Oil on panel, 14 1/4″ by 11 7/8″. The Rose-Marie and Eijk van Otterloo Collection, currently on loan to Yale University Art Gallery.

Of the nearly 300 Frans Hals paintings, nearly all are portraits – but few are as magnificent as his diminutive Portrait of a Preacher.

The candor of the expression in the preacher’s eyes hints at a complex personality.  His mustache is painted “wet in wet” (painting atop wet paint) while a single brushstroke defines his thumb. Nearly every brushstroke is vital in modeling this portrait; none is superflous.

While the preacher’s identity isn’t certain, it is certain that through this streamlined format, he intended to be remembered as a simple man.  Few attributes define him or offer clues to his identity:

  • his lace collar is as plain as they came;
  • his background and clothing lack ornamentation; and
  • his skullcap is not necessarily indicative of priesthood.

Notes John Walsh, Director Emeritus of the Getty and a specialist in Dutch paintings, this gentleman was a “man above vanity”.

The sitter wanted to be portrayed as representative of a certain class or type, making it all the more remarkable that despite those societal expectations, Frans Hals nonetheless conveys an individualized, distinctive personality.

Interested in more?

  • Listen to John Walsh’s exceptional lecture on Portrait of a Preacher.
  • Explore other Frans Hals paintings.  Learn about his Laughing Cavalier
  • Use the link in the sidebar to join this art history blog to receive bimonthly posts about famous paintings (and ones we feel need more exposure).
By |2018-03-23T21:26:33-04:00February 25th, 2015|Baroque paintings|0 Comments

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