Van Gogh •
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Frans Hals was born in Antwerp, of Flemish parents, who moved to
the Dutch city of Haarlem when Hals was
just a boy. He never left Haarlem, and in
its museum may be found the greatest collection of his paintings. Hals was a student of Karl van Mander, a Mannerist painter, who had lived Italy between 1600 and 1603, before setting up his own workshop in Haarlem. Best known for his portraits of tavern entertainers, soldiers, and other picturesque characters, Hals was the recipient of many private and public commissions for portraits, and therefore should have been affluent, though in fact was somehow always broke. His early works are loosely composed, and give the impression of having been painted in no time at all. It is a sign of Hals' ability that he achieved this effect for he actually spent hours rather than minutes on each painting.
As he grew older, Hals infused a much more serious tone into his work, showing a deep psychological understanding of his subjects. His brushstroke
grew tighter and more incisive and his palette gradually darkened becoming, eventually, quite somber, full of grayish, black, or deep brown tones. These tones are set off by patches of white, which serve as highlights, illuminating and accentuating his portraits. The compassionate understanding that is eminently visible in Hals' latest works becomes even more moving when it is recalled, that in the final years of his life, the fiscal difficulties that had always plagued him, became acute. Fortunately, the municipal authorities, most of whom he has immortalized in portraits, had granted him a small pension upon which he survived until his death.