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Sunday, November 6, 2011

Here as promised is my post on Frans Hals. Now, remember I warned you that even some of my art posts are likely to be controversial so you have been warned.
In my not so humble opinion Frans Hals and Rembrandt are almost unrivaled as the greatest portrait artists of of all time. Oh I can hear you screaming  and you aren't even in the room.  "What about Sargent, what about this guy what abut this other guy." Ok  I agree Sargent had a lot of technical skill, so to me it just boils down to taste.  So this post is about what it is about Frans Hal that I like.
Franz Hals The Merry Drinker  From The Art Renewal center
 This painting says it all. To me this painting is the essence of painting. It says everything that needs to be said without saying too much.  We follow the shadow up the left arm and up the face.  The face is just so  magnificently painted we instantly get the essence of the sitter. This is such a free and lose painting it doesn't get bogged down in detail, it isn't overly concerned about exactness, yet the whole character  of the subject comes through.  Look at how simply the hands are drawn and painted. 

You can not tell this on a computer screen, but when you see a Frans Hal in real life, as you move away from the painting it becomes more and more into focus.   The right hand in this painting would look very realistic if viewed from a distance.   Also notice how extraordinarily beautiful the light is.  Notice how the shadow moves you around the painting, while the light is spotted in a few areas where Hal wants you to look.

This painting is clearly of someone moving, this merry drinker  isn't going to be holding that pose for very long.  One gets that feeling of movement not just from the pose, but also from how freely this is painted. Now days that feeling of movement might be shown by the blur of a camera lens or the lines that one sees in cartoons.  But this style captures the movement without being gimmicky.  

It is that movement that bring this painting alive. This is not a static rendition of a person who has been sitting for a portrait for six weeks. This is a painting that is breathing life, just as its subject is a living breathing person. Through its looseness and movement of shadows this painting lives.

Hals also uses color to breath life into his painting. One can see it the red checks of the subject.   There are other Hals paintings where it is more pronounced, but here too the colors in the face breath life into it. It is clear this is a real person and not a mannequin.

Another reason why I don't care for  paintings that look too much like photographs is that they often take all the life out a painting.  This painting makes me think I  could  walk into the  painting and shake hands with the drinker and he would  slap me on the back and invite me to join him at the bar, it is that alive, it looks like he could reach out and grab my arm and say come on in.  To me a painting with life says so much more than a painting that is  just technically accurate.
Franz Hals  breathed life into his painting better than any other artist I  know of, that is what makes him great to me.

Coming up I  plan to show you how drawing can come alive or be pushed to death. Please check back for that and a lot more.

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