Gateway to the Classics: The Story of Dutch Painting by Charles H. Caffin
 
The Story of Dutch Painting by  Charles H. Caffin

Frans Hals

T HE readiest way to study the art of Holland in the seventeenth century is under the separate heads of portraiture, landscape, marine, genre, and still-life. In this way one obtains a comprehensive survey of the development of each of these branches, and is not confused by the fact that many of the artists practised in more than one of them. But at the start it must be observed that these separate departments are inclosed in a common motive. As Fromentin says, the art of Holland was essentially an art of portraiture. It followed from the character of the people and the conditions under which they found themselves. They were a nation of burghers, practical in mind, direct in action, self-centered, and full of personal and local pride. What more likely, in fact more inevitable, than that they should need and their painters should supply an art which gave a complete, exact, and for the most part unembellished portrait of the country, its people, and their habits of life.

But while this common motive of portraiture, which distinguishes every branch of Holland painting, was in response to a common and collective need of the people, it was modified and shaped by the example of two leading personalities: Hals and Rembrandt. So determining was their influence that an analysis of their respective motives and methods is not only a necessary preliminary but the quickest way to a comprehension of the development of the whole school.

They had characteristics in common. One might almost represent the two men by concentric circles; Hals being the inner, Rembrandt the indefinitely larger one. Hals was an epitome of the genius of the Dutch race; Rembrandt was also this, but more—the expression of a genius peculiarly his own. Both manifested, Hals invariably, Rembrandt at times, the quality of direct seeing and doing that was a national characteristic; but at other times Rembrandt was possessed of a spirituality, if one may so call it, that was directly opposed to the prevailing practicalness. Let us study each for the purpose of discovering what was his own personal art and how it affected the art of others.

Hals, then, the leader of the Haarlem School, we will examine first, not only because he was the oldest of the famous men of the seventeenth century, but also because his own genius was so closely representative of that of his countrymen. Of his life there is little to record. He was born in Antwerp, in 1584, but of parents of good Haarlem stock, temporarily driven from home by the vicissitudes of the war. He may have begun his studies in Antwerp, but by 1608 was probably settled in Haarlem. It must have been about two years later that he married a lady named Anneke Hermanszoon, for their child, Harmen Hals, was baptized on the 2d of September, 1611. The marriage appears to have been unfortunate, a record, dated 1616, showing that the husband was summoned and reprimanded by the magistrates for drunkenness and violent conduct toward his wife. She died a few days later, apparently from natural causes, and the following year Hals married Lysbeth Reyniers, with whom he lived for fifty years, bringing up a large family. That his conduct toward the first wife was not very seriously viewed by the community seems to be proved by the fact that in 1617 and 1618 he and his brother Dirck were elected members of the School of Rhetoric. Later they were elected to the Civic Guard and to the Painters' Guild of St. Luke in Haarlem.

Like almost all the artists of his time, he was involved in pecuniary difficulties. In 1652 a baker sued him for the amount of two hundred guilders, a debt incurred for bread supplied and for small loans occasionally advanced. He obtained possession of the artist's movables, but allowed him to continue in the use of them. Ten years later we find Hals, now seventy-eight years old, applying for relief from the city government, which granted him one hundred and fifty dollars in quarterly instalments. This exhausted, he renewed his application for public assistance, and was granted a yearly pension of two hundred guilders. Two years later, on or about the 26th of August, 1666, he died in his eighty-second year and was buried beneath the choir of the Church of St. Bavon in Haarlem.

These few circumstances represent practically all that is known of Frans Hals's life as a man. The main suggestion to be derived from them is that he was held in considerable esteem by his fellow-townsmen. The painters enrolled him in their guild; his creditor did not unduly press him, and the municipality attended to the needs of his declining years. It is fit to dwell on these points, because a tradition, apparently started by Houbraken, the painter-historian of the artists of the period, has clung about the memory of Hals, representing him to have been a frequenter of pot-houses and generally dissolute. But, except for the reprimand administered to him in the affair of his first wife, there is nothing on record to prove the accuracy of this tradition. One is therefore permitted to believe that the incident was a single offense; sufficiently reprehensible, but not to be counted against his whole life. On the other hand, the leniency of the baker and the relief voted by the municipality may be fairly taken as arguments against the story of his worthlessness. But the most reliable evidence of its falsity is to be found in his work as an artist. It is inconceivable that the portraits and character studies which he executed in such numbers could have been produced by a man whose brain was fuddled with dissipation. The very character of his technique gives the lie to such a suspicion; for, as we shall see presently, it was the product of a particularly vigorous comprehension of facts, and was rendered in a method extraordinarily direct and sure, and often under circumstances of great rapidity. While his work is uneven in quality, it is only toward the end that there is a falling off in the certainty and the completeness of his technique. But the pathos that attaches to the two memorable examples of this decline, which now hang in the Haarlem Museum, the groups of male and female Regents of the Hospital for the Poor,  is due to their revelation, not of any premature loss of power, but of the sapping of vitality which comes after fourscore years.

On the other hand, it would be fatal to a just appreciation of Hals to try to shape him to our modern notions of propriety. His character was certainly not staid; it may well have been, by present-day comparisons, unregulated. He was a man of his own time, and the character of his fellow-citizens may be seen in the groups he has left behind of the officers of the Civic Guard. They were men of vigorous personality, of strong passions; they lived high and, maybe, at times a bit recklessly. They had faced death in battle, and enjoyed the leisure which their own exertions had helped to bring about. That they enrolled Hals in their organization suggests that he was a man after their own heart. He must have been; otherwise he never could have painted them as he did, realizing at once their individualities of character and the general character of enthusiastic good-fellowship that united them. In none of these portraits is there any hint of excess, but in all the declaration of conviviality. It is quite reasonable to assume that this represents a truer portrait of the artist's own personal character than the one suggested by Houbraken.

Moreover, there is another phase of his character that is positively revealed in his work. It is that of humor. Whether he is painting one of the curious and sometimes discreditable characters that haunted the streets and resorts of Haarlem, or the portrait of some burgomaster, fully alive to his own importance, or recording the puissance and the pageantry of the military guilds, it is always in a genial mood, not seldom with manifest humor. In fact, if ever there was an artist to whom, as revealed in his work, the epithet "jolly" were appropriate, it is Frans Hals.

And here we may note a shrewd observation by the German critic W. Bode. "The artist's particular gift," he says, "which we find in nearly every one of his portraits, consists in his establishing a lively connection between the person or persons represented and a supposed, third person." He does not represent the individual or group as if posing for himself, but as if he had surprised them in the presence of a third person, or as if he had in mind the impression that would be produced in a third person's mind by the scene in front of him. His own point of view, in fact, is more than objective, more than a recognition of direct, visible facts; it is rather expansive, drawing into the circumference of its own observation the points of view and feeling of others than himself. One may almost say that he has the gift of revealing his personages not only as they appeared to him, but also as they were regarded by their contemporaries. Whether singly or in groups, they seem to be perfectly at home in an atmosphere at once sympathetic and conducive to the most spontaneous expression of their own natures. Thus, as Bode adds, "he has a great gift of rendering any passing moment of psychical agitation."

Before proceeding to an analysis of his technique, we may note two other general characteristics: the vigor and the imagination that it involves. An artist's technique is a measure of his personality, even though his motive be as impersonal as Hals's. The latter's point of view was objective, intent on seeing and rendering the facts of things as they confronted him; but, unlike many objective painters whose technique presents merely a correct and efficient record, because their own mind is little more than a mirror, reflecting mechanically what is in front of it, Hals's mind was an active vitalizer of the impressions that it received. The distinction corresponds pretty completely to the difference which may exist between two lecturers. One will give a careful presentation of his subject which we listen to with interest, and, if we have confidence in his ability, with a willingness to accept his conclusions; but another will do more. Because of the gusto with which he attacks his subject, the genial, expansive outlook with which he views it, the broadly human spirit in which he treats it, even because of the tone of voice and gesture of body with which he lends color and warmth to his remarks, he will so stimulate his audience that they cease to be mere listeners. Their own brains are at work; they become active participators in the train of thought. It is in this kind of way that Hals's technique affects one. It is the product of so ample and genial an outlook, so teems with gusto, and manifests itself with such an assurance of conviction and so vigorously facile a style, that it stimulates the imagination. In the presence of his portraits one is no passive spectator, but aroused to an activity of appreciation.

I have spoken of imagination; and I mean to imply a twofold exercise thereof: that Hals himself exhibited imagination and kindles it also in the spectator. To some people it may seem to be an abuse of the word to speak of imagination, in the case of an artist so content to be occupied with the objective traits of his subject as Hals was. But they overlook the fact that, while an artist may exercise no imagination in the choice of a subject, he may display a great deal in the rendering of it. He may not give reins to his imagination as Rembrandt did, peering below the surface of things, exploring the hidden recesses of the human soul; he may, on the contrary, be satisfied to be an able craftsman, handling the material presented to him, intent only on giving to it form and character; yet, even so, he will exhibit what one may call technical imagination. And it is precisely this which characterizes the technique of Hals. It appears in the arrangement of his compositions, especially in the group-portraits, where it takes the form of a superior kind of inventiveness, which is but a phase of imagination. This gift abounds in the corporation pictures at Haarlem. The problem of disposing so many figures in such a way that each shall have its due share of individual emphasis, and yet that the whole group may have, on the one hand, a naturalness and spontaneity of suggestion, and, on the other, a reasonable amount of artistic unity, was one to try to its utmost capacity an artist's inventiveness. Hals was the first to solve it; and, while other artists profited by his example, none could attain to the completeness of his success. You may be thinking of Rembrandt's Syndics of the Cloth Guild;  but the latter's composition contains only six figures, whereas in Hals's masterpiece, The Reunion of the Officers of the Archers of St. Andrew,  there are fourteen. For a just comparison you should rather choose Van der Helst's great composition in the Rijks Museum, The Banquet of the Civic Guard,  an amazing example of inventiveness, but lacking in the suppleness, spontaneity, and gusto that Hals exhibits.

But the latter's imagination is not alone displayed in the management of intricate compositions. It is displayed also in the treatment of each figure and in his pictures of single individuals; manifesting itself in two ways, both in the way he has seen his subject and in the way he has rendered it. And first for the imaginative quality of his vision. It is concerned with externals, or at least with traits of character that lie close to the surface but with what an alertness it has observed the idiosyncrasy of each person, and how completely it has comprehended it! This is more than objective clear-sightedness; it implies a capacity to reconstruct the retinal impression, and to clothe it with actual living consciousness, that involves a marked exercise of the creative faculty of imagination. If you still doubt it, again compare Hals with Van der Helst, next to himself the most accomplished of the painters of corporation pictures, and the verdict concerning the latter's work will surely be that by comparison it is prosy. At least that is the word that seems to me to express the difference, and it conveys the suggestion that the work is merely objective, unvitalized by the imaginative faculty.

Further, observe how Hals treats the costumes and the accompaniments of still-life in his pictures. He has not merely seen them; he has felt them, realized in his imagination their distinctive character and their relation to the whole impression. For those were brave days in Holland, succeeding the expiration of the truce; an underlying bravery of spirit and an external bravery of demeanor and manners characterized the life of the burghers. It was not for nothing that their trade had absorbed the finest weavers and artificers in the world; they decked themselves and their families in the costliest fabrics of their looms and loaded their tables with objects of fine plate. These things were more to them than vanities; they were the expression of the proud preëminence they had won. Now it is the spirit and the meaning of all this that Hals was so skilful in rendering. Van der Helst's displays of costume rather suggest that "fine feathers make fine birds," while the suggestion of Hals is of fine fellows appropriately bedecked with finery. His imagination, in fact, had caught the enthusiasm of the time and discovered its interpretation. And, further still, apart from the relation which this beauty of display bore to the temper of the times, it needs imagination in an artist to interpret the beauty of a fabric or an object of still-life. Mere imitation of its appearance is not sufficient. Such merely represents the appearance; it does not interpret it. The distinction will be clear to any one who is a student of photography and has seen the still-life studies of flowers and fruit and glassware by Baron A. de Meyer. In them the crude notion of merely representing appearances has been superseded by the desire to make the picture express the enthusiasm which their beauty has inspired. The result is an interpretation of the sentiment of beauty. Such, too, is Hals's rendering of the silks and velvets and lawn ruffs, the dishes and goblets, the fruit and wine, banners and weapons. He has not only seen these things, he has felt their beauty; discovered, in fact, by an act of imagination, the sentiment of beauty they involve.

And here I may add, in the way of anticipation, that, if a person is dull to the sentiment of beauty that things inanimate may suggest, he is not going to proceed very far toward an appreciation of the art of Holland in the seventeenth century for it was largely concerned with the beauty that is inherent in material things. If he is conscious of nothing more in the rendering of costumes and accessories with which these pictures abound than the cleverness of material representation, he will soon tire of the study, for the skilfulness is so frequently repeated, and its very repetition will fatigue. He may begin by exclaiming: "How wonderfully that sash, this velvet gown, or what not is painted!" but, unless he can go on and share the enthusiasm for beauty that inspired and assured the artist's skill; if, in a word, his own imagination cannot conspire with the imagination of the artist, he will very shortly be an exceedingly tired student of Holland art.

So far we have discussed the imagination with which Hals observed his subjects; it remains to note how imagination was involved in the rendering of them. Really the two processes, the mental and the manual, are inextricably united, for it was the way he felt his subject that determined the impression he received of it, and the impression itself that suggested the mode of rendering it. Yes, he was an Impressionist. The term, as we know, is modern, dating from about 1871, but the idea involved in it has been derived from the example of Frans Hals and of his great contemporary Velásquez, with whom, however, so far as is known, he had no possible chance of conferring. These two original minds, separated by distance and the difference of race and by the barrier of hostilities that precluded any acquaintance with each other or each other's work, were nevertheless kindred geniuses who simultaneously discovered a new way of seeing and rendering their subject. It did not survive their generation, for the artists of the next century, turned again to Italy, and Hals and Velásquez were practically forgotten, until in the early sixties of the nineteenth century Édouard Manet rediscovered Velásquez, and the study of him led to the recognition of Hals, so that both became an example and inspiration to modern art. It produced, in fact, a revolution in the artist's point of view and method of painting, and the principle involved was dubbed Impressionism.

Some confusion still exists as to what is implied by this term. Many, for example, having heard that Claude Monet is an Impressionist and observing that he covers his pictures with little dabs of paint, suppose that in this consists Impressionism. Others of wider observation, having found themselves puzzled and even outraged by the vagaries in paint that are committed under cover of Impressionism, have concluded that Impressionism is something which, in the words of the late Lord Dundreary, "No fellah can understand"; no layman, at least; and, according to their temperament, they either foam at the mouth with disgust of Impressionism or regard it as a comparatively harmless form of lunacy. In either case they miss the fact that Impressionism has become a vital principle of modern thought, expressing itself not only in the arts: in painting, sculpture, literature, play-writing, acting, music, and dancing, but also in modern methods of education, and, by a natural extension of the idea involved, even in the modern attitude toward matters of criminology and sanitation. These, however, are modern evolutions from the single, simple principle involved in the Impressionism of Hals and Velásquez. Before discussing this, let us note what is surely interesting and extremely suggestive, namely, that both the rudimentary principle, as it appears in Hals, and the efflorescence to which it attained in the nineteenth century were contemporary with a signal advance in the growth of the scientific spirit. It is, in fact, of the latter that Impressionism is a phase.

With Hals, as with modern Impressionists, it represents a more natural way of seeing. When the eye is directed toward an object, it sees the latter as a whole; it perceives some details and fails to perceive others; it automatically selects and eliminates. There is another way of seeing, as when the object is kept for a long time under observation, and the eye travels over it at leisure and exhaustively examines every part. Of a picture that records the results of this way of seeing, we exclaim, "How realistic!" And so in a sense it is; but, on the other hand, we know that it does not really represent the way in which we see things in every-day life. What our eye usually records is not an inventory of details, but a summarized impression of a personality; and the more vivid the impression, the less likely is it to be distracted by a number of details. We are impressed by the general significance of the personality, and note only those details that most contribute to it; the details that are themselves most significant and characteristic. Such was Hals's way of seeing his subject; and, if it resulted in a very vivid impression in the case of an individual portrait, how much more when it embraced the complicated impression of a group! The latter, as a matter of fact, does include more than any eye could possibly embrace in a single act of vision; but this was a necessary concession to the difficulties of the problem, which was to effect a compromise between the conflicting claims, on the one hand, of the group as a whole, and, on the other, of each of the individual units composing it. Admitting the need of this reconciliation of opposites, we can scarcely hesitate to acknowledge the vividness of the total impression and the no less vivid impression of each one of its component units.

When we analyze the principle of this method of seeing, it is found to be that of relativity. In selecting this or rejecting that the artist has been guided by its more or less of value in relation to the whole. The composition, in fact, is an adjusted balance of varieties of values; an interlocked scheme of mutual relations; shrewdly calculated to assert the significance of the whole without undue impairment of the varying character of the parts. And this principle, thus applied to the whole composition, operates also in the treatment of every part. Whether it be the folds of a sash, the modeling of an arm in a sleeve, the substance and set of a ruff, or the construction of a face, each is attained by observing the relation of the values. In this case, however, one uses values, not to measure the amount of relative importance that they play in the general scheme, but in the technical sense of the amount and quality of light reflected from the several facets of the surface. Hals chose to view his subject in a diffused light that permitted practically no shadows, but reduced the whole to a tissue of more light and less light, of higher and lower values. While this sounds like the method of the modern plein-air  painters, which has been evolved from the example of Hals and Velásquez, it is not quite the same; for Hals does not represent the light as being independent of the figures and enveloping them, but still adheres to the old convention of making the figure itself a center of light, as, for instance, a lamp is. Thus in one of his groups, where a window appears at the back, the light beyond it is of lower value than that which illumines the figures; and, in another case, a landscape presents a darker background. But, having adopted this convention, he adheres to the logic of it, and, like the modern painter who has followed his example, but with the difference that he tries to represent the effect of plein-air , models his forms in colored light by the juxtaposition of the various values.

And it is characteristic of Hals that in doing this he overlooks minute distinctions of value, seizing only the most salient ones and laying them on the canvas with a broad brush and a remarkable decision. Thus his technique presents a bold and vigorous generalization of the values; often conspicuous for what it omits, as when he indicates the back of a hat or a ruff by a flat tone that is almost uninterrupted by contrasting tones. It is a technique, in fact, that relies very largely on suggestion; hence its stimulating character, for one's own imagination is invited to assist in the illusion.

Nor does this suggestive generalization involve the slovenliness or crudeness of brushwork that often disfigures the modern impressionistic picture. While a canvas by Hals should be viewed from some distance off, it does not offend at close range. On the contrary, one can enjoy the orderliness and finesse, the result of fluency and assurance, that the brushwork reveals, the ensemble having that quality of perfected craftsmanship which characterizes the whole Holland School. And, though Hals is scarcely to be classed as a colorist, the compositions being decked with color rather than interwoven of color, yet his color has a distinctly positive charm. For he takes so frank a delight in local colors, whether gravely or gaily sumptuous, preserves their purity of hue and invests them with luminousness. His color-schemes, too, have this distinction, that, for all their bravery of show, they are never commonplace and seldom without a clear suggestion of virility.

A unique opportunity of tracing the development of his style is presented by the series of corporation pictures at Haarlem. I will not attempt a detailed description of each, but rather recall the impressions that were jotted down in the presence of them. The earliest, then, is The Banquet of the Officers of the Archers of St. George,  dated 1616, when Hals was thirty-two. How magnificent the display of still-life, the table-cloth, fruit, dishes, and goblets painted with such skill and evident delight; what a vigorous enthusiasm is manifested in the treatment of the uniforms, mostly black, and the scarfs of white and crimson silk! Each head is strongly characterized, and so are the hands. The heads are so disposed that they form a band across the picture, below which another band contains the more sprinkled arrangement of the hands. Two of the latter, close together near the center of the table, form the nucleus from which the lines of the composition radiate. The composition, in fact, is quite formal, and the heads, one notices, are lighted from the side and constructed of shadow as well as light; meanwhile no light comes in from the window at the back, through which appears a landscape, less vividly lighted than the scene indoors. Indeed, the whole arrangement is still influenced by the arbitrary devices of the studio; nor does one fail to note that the space occupied by the heads is flattened almost into one plane, as a modern photographic group is apt to be.

These points are emphasized by a comparison with Nos. 117 and 118, painted eleven years later. The Banquet of the Officers of the Archers of St. George,  this time, is presented in an interior without a window visible. The whole apartment seems to be filled with lighted air; the heads are no longer so obviously arranged to secure a contrast of dark against light and light against dark; they are evenly illuminated, and take their places justly in their several-planes. For the planes here extend farther back, and the composition is more varied, with less suggestion of studied artfulness. Moreover, the treatment of the costumes has become finer, the blacks especially yielding a variety of delightful grays that give increased sparkle and animation to the colorscheme. The flesh parts also are more luminous, and reveal a greater fluency of brushwork as if the artist had "got there" with more ease and rapidity. The effect of all this is very arresting and satisfying until one examines The Banquet of the Officers of the Archers of St. Andrew.

The latter belongs to the same year, 1627; but the artist has surpassed himself. Here the faces literally scintillate with animation of color. Those of the other picture are discovered by comparison to be less illuminated; after all, they have been modeled to some extent with shadow, and the flesh in parts is inclined to be greenish gray or drab. The hands also in the latter picture have more expression and a more individual characterization, while the gestures are more natural and spontaneous. The composition, too, is at once more varied and more coördinated. Again, as in both the previous pictures, the nucleus of it is a hand; in this case the center of two diagonal axes. But, while the design is geometrical, the naturalness of the grouping is quite extraordinary in its mingling of ease and propriety. Further, the color masses are more inventively arranged; their spotting is more effectively distributed, and the gaiety of the color is prolonged into the lower part of the composition. This picture commemorates the banquet given by the corps on the eve of its departure to the siege of Hasselt and Mons. Six years later Hals painted a Reunion  of the same corps, though only one member appears in both scenes. It is Captain Johan Schatter, who in the earlier picture is seated in front of the table, facing left. He occupies the same position in the later group, but is now standing and looking over his shoulder toward the spectator. He has exchanged his costume of black and golden brown, with its scarf of rose and white, for a snuff-colored jerkin, pearl-gray under-coat, and a sky-blue sash and feather; and the difference is reflected in the superior delicacy of color that distinguishes the later picture.

In this Reunion of the Officers of the Archers of St. Andrew  the corporation pictures reach their highest water-mark. The background, however, of brownish-olive foliage, showing through an opening some red roofs against the sky, is dry in color and lacking in luminosity. The heads, in consequence, do not present the same suggestion of being enveloped in light as those in the previous picture. In what, then, does the superiority of this acknowledged masterpiece consist? Comparing it with the earlier examples, we discover that its color-scheme of blue and amber, while less resplendent, is more choice, delicate, and subtle, and that the loveliness of color has been made contributory to the characterization of the figures. This is scarcely to be appreciated from the photographic reproduction, but in presence of the original one has a lively sense of it. There is no suggestion of the display of color having been considered by itself or as itself an end; the tonal harmony so accords with the harmony of expression that characterizes the separate individualities of the group that tone and expression are in complete unity. Again, as a result or, more probably, a cause of this harmony of expression, there is a complete simplicity of attitude and gesture. "What shall I do with my hands?" Any one who has stage-managed amateur theatricals knows how frequently this question is asked by the performers. In nine cases out of ten the best advice, though the hardest to follow, is to do nothing. It is just the fact that the members of this group are so admirably doing nothing which gives at once such a naturalness and so high a distinction to this picture.

Here, in fact, we touch perhaps the clue to the whole superiority of this canvas. In one word, it is control; that almost unconscious self-control on the artist's part which results from his consciousness of assured capacity. He has won beyond the point of experiment, beyond the later temptation to indulge in display of knowledge and skill; he has so absolutely acquired both and attuned the one to the other, that the tricks and devices of his craft no longer sway his imagination; he shows, in fact, his mastery not so much by what he does as by what he withholds; he has reached in this great work a plane of extraordinary artistic conscientiousness. The picture, in fact, has that appearance of inevitableness, that suggestion of having grown rather than of having been made, which is the highest expression of genius. It represents Hals at his zenith. The date is 1633 and the artist's age forty-nine.

The next picture, Officers of the Archers of St. George,  is dated 1639, six years later. It is conspicuously inferior not only to the masterpiece (that were excusable), but to all the preceding works. It represents a falling off not so much in actual craftsmanship as in artistic morality. The artist appears to have been satisfied to do less well than he could; to do, in fact, as little as he might. He has saved himself expenditure of invention in the composition by stringing the figures out in a line across the front, and raising another line of figures behind them; this having been the niggard, unimaginative arrangement of the older corporation pictures, from which his other work had presented so happy a departure. Correspondingly the heads, while forcible in characterization, are lacking in luminosity, and the fabrics are without vivacity. The general effect is stockish; the breath of life and of art, as Hals could suggest both, is absent.

Nor in the next picture, dated two years later, the Regents of the Hospital of St. Elizabeth , do we detect the true Frans Hals. The faces are trickily modeled, brilliant high lights being contrasted with heavy greenish-drab shadows; and the figures are lumpish, except the second from the right, which alone reveals sympathy and enthusiasm.

Of the last two groups nothing need be said but that they are the work of a veteran of eighty years, whose hand has lost its cunning, while his brain, no longer active, retains only some wavering recollections of its original activity.

The important point to be suggested in conclusion is that Hals's best period included the years from 1625 to 1635; that after the latter period this enthusiasm waned, and his work became too often perfunctory. In such cases the flesh parts exhibit an uninspired use of green lower tones that have a tendency to become drab; features are often crudely emphasized by a stroke or dab of exaggerated value, and luminosity has faded into a dull, sometimes lumpish inertness. Even so, however, compared with the work of other Hollanders, apart from Rembrandt, it still had a quality and a character that render it distinguished; but much of this distinction disappears when you compare him with himself, the later with the earlier Hals. Many of his portraits suggest the perfunctoriness of a man who has got his method down pat, and tediously repeats it. In a word, his technique was so personal and so dependent upon the mood of the moment that it needed the stimulus of enthusiasm, and when this was absent, the vitality of the technique became impaired.


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