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Title: Franz Hals
Author: Staley, Edgcumbe, 1845-
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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produced from images generously made available by The
Internet Archive)



    Transcriber's Note:

    Every effort has been made to replicate this text as faithfully as
    possible. "Scherijver" has been changed to "Schrijver" at each
    occurrence.

    Italic text has been marked with _underscores_.
    OE ligatures have been expanded.



    MASTERPIECES
    IN COLOUR
    EDITED BY--
    T. LEMAN HARE



FRANZ HALS



IN THE SAME SERIES


       ARTIST.               AUTHOR.

    VELAZQUEZ.          S. L. BENSUSAN.
    REYNOLDS.           S. L. BENSUSAN.
    TURNER.             C. LEWIS HIND.
    ROMNEY.             C. LEWIS HIND.
    GREUZE.             ALYS EYRE MACKLIN.
    BOTTICELLI.         HENRY B. BINNS.
    ROSSETTI.           LUCIEN PISSARRO.
    BELLINI.            GEORGE HAY.
    FRA ANGELICO.       JAMES MASON.
    REMBRANDT.          JOSEF ISRAELS.
    LEIGHTON.           A. LYS BALDRY.
    RAPHAEL.            PAUL G. KONODY.
    HOLMAN HUNT.        MARY E. COLERIDGE.
    TITIAN.             S. L. BENSUSAN.
    MILLAIS.            A. LYS BALDRY.
    CARLO DOLCI.        GEORGE HAY.
    GAINSBOROUGH.       MAX ROTHSCHILD.
    TINTORETTO.         S. L. BENSUSAN.
    LUINI.              JAMES MASON.
    FRANZ HALS.         EDGCUMBE STALEY.


_In Preparation_

    VAN DYCK.           PERCY M. TURNER.
    WHISTLER.           T. MARTIN WOOD.
    LEONARDO DA VINCI.  M. W. BROCKWELL.
    RUBENS.             S. L. BENSUSAN.
    BURNE-JONES.        A. LYS BALDRY.
    J. F. MILLET.       PERCY M. TURNER.
    CHARDIN.            PAUL G. KONODY.
    FRAGONARD.          C. HALDANE MACFALL.
    HOLBEIN.            S. L. BENSUSAN.
    BOUCHER.            C. HALDANE MACFALL.
    VIGÉE LE BRUN.      C. HALDANE MACFALL.
    WATTEAU.            C. LEWIS HIND.
    MURILLO.            S. L. BENSUSAN.

AND OTHERS.

    [Illustration: PLATE I.--THE LAUGHING CAVALIER. Frontispiece

    (Wallace Collection, London)

    Painted in 1624. Hals called it "Portrait of an Officer," and why,
    and how, it gained its present title, no one knows. On the back of
    the canvas we read--"Aeta Suæ 26 Ao. 1624." The "officer" is _not_
    laughing; he is merely showing good conceit of himself in
    particular, and disdain of the world in general! It is a rare study
    in expression, now a scowl, now a leer, alternating as one looks
    upon the handsome young face. Whilst the details of the costume are
    as rich as may be, the colours are few and beautifully blended, a
    _tour de force_ in technical skill. The picture was purchased by its
    original owner, Mijnheer M. Meuwlehuys of Haarlem, for £80; at the
    Pourtalës sale, in 1865, Sir Richard Wallace gave £2040 for it.]



                               Franz Hals

                           BY EDGCUMBE STALEY

                         ILLUSTRATED WITH EIGHT
                        REPRODUCTIONS IN COLOUR

                             [Illustration]

                       LONDON: T. C. & E. C. JACK
                   NEW YORK: FREDERICK A. STOKES CO.



FOREWORD


"Franz Hals was a great painter; for truth of character, indeed, he was
the greatest painter that ever existed.... He _made_ no beauties, his
portraits are of people such as we meet every day in the streets.... He
possessed one great advantage over many other men--his mechanical power
was such that he was able to hit off a portrait on the instant. He was
able to shoot the bird flying--so to speak--with all its freshness about
it, which even Titian does not seem to have done.... If I had wanted an
_exact likeness_ I should have preferred Franz Hals." So said James
Northcote, the Royal Academician, talking with his friend James Ward,
upon Art and artists, in the little back parlour of his humble dwelling,
39 Argyll Street, long ago absorbed in the premises of a great drapery
establishment.



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS


  Plate

    I. The Laughing Cavalier                            Frontispiece
       Wallace Collection, London
                                                                Page
   II. Old Hille Bobbe                                            14
       Royal Museum, Berlin

  III. The Merry Trio                                             24
       In America (a copy by Dirk Hals, Royal Museum, Berlin)

   IV. Franz Hals and his Wife                                    34
       Rijks Museum, Amsterdam

    V. The Officers of the Shooting Guild of St Adriaen           40
       Town Hall, Haarlem

   VI. The Jolly Mandolinist (Der Naar)                           50
       Collection of Baron G. Rothschild, Paris (a copy by
       Dirk Halls in Rijks Museum, Amsterdam)

  VII. The Market Girl (La Bohémienne)                            60
       Louvre Gallery, Paris

 VIII. Nurse and Child                                            70
       Royal Museum, Berlin



[Illustration: Picture of Hals]

Hals was an ancient and honourable patrician family, intimately
connected with Haarlem for well-nigh three hundred years. The name first
appears in the annals of the city in 1350, and again and again
individuals bearing it held the offices of Burgomaster, Treasurer, and
_Schepen_--Alderman or Magistrate.

Pieter Claes Hals, Franz' father, was appointed a magistrate in 1575. In
1577 he was one of the _Regenten_, or Governors of the city Orphanage,
and in 1578 he became President of that famous institution.

His profession has not been indicated, but that he was a loyal and
influential citizen is proved by his holding a command in the garrison
which so heroically defended the city against the Spaniards in 1572.

Wholesale pillage by the hated invader, however, reduced many a wealthy
burgher family to penury, and compelled them to seek the recovery of
their fortunes elsewhere.

The venerable city of Antwerp, by reason of the enterprise of her
merchants, offered great attractions. Thither fled many a Haarlemer, and
among them went forth Mijnheer Schepen Hals and his newly married wife.
It must have been a great trial to domesticated Lysbeth Coper to have to
pack up what was left of their household crocks and seek a new home.

It was in the spring of 1579, a little more than a year after their
wedding day, that they started upon their journey. They made first for
Mechlin, where a branch of the family was settled, and they were
welcomed with cordial hospitality by their relatives.

    [Illustration: PLATE II.--OLD HILLE BOBBE

    (Royal Museum, Berlin)

    Painted in 1650. This ancient, wrinkled dame was what they call in
    seaport towns "a sailor's mother," rather a dubious compliment to
    mariners! She was a "merry toper," like many of Hals' companions,
    and went from tavern to tavern to get a drink. Her real name was
    Alle, or Alice Boll--easily transposed. The owl is probably a
    painter's skit of the screeching, scolding old hussy! The portrait
    is quite remarkable for poverty of colour. Franz was out of funds
    and out of paints, but he has made the old bloodless flesh look like
    life. He often painted her: he loved her odd look, if he liked not
    well her scorn!]

One whole year the couple spent in the city of lace, and a little son
was born to them, whom they registered in the name of Dirk. The greater
opportunities offered to labour and capital in the city on the Scheldt,
however, were so evident, that they once more packed up their goods and
chattels and resumed their pilgrimage.

Antwerp was already renowned as an Art city--its painters and engravers
were of wide world fame; and Pieter Claes Hals, in full possession of
certain artistic proclivities of his family, considered that he might
more profitably make use of them there. Besides this, another branch of
the family was established in Antwerp, and members thereof were in good
positions.

The journey from Mechlin, short as it was, partook of the pathetic
character of that of Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem, inasmuch as they were
no sooner housed in temporary lodgings than Mevrouw Lysbeth brought into
the world another little son. Vincenzius Laurenszoon Van der Vinne--a
devoted pupil in after years of this very baby boy--says he was born
late in 1580. There is no official record of the day of birth, but he
was registered in the good old family name of Franz.

"Franz of Antwerp" was a designation which stuck to the great painter
right on to the end of his long career. Nothing whatever is known of his
youth, his education, or his pursuits. For twenty years neither he, nor
his parents, are named by biographers or historians.

In 1600 Mijnheer and Mevrouw Hals found themselves once more at Haarlem,
with what thankfulness it would not be difficult to narrate. Their two
sons accompanied them, but two baby girls--Cornelia and Geertruid--were
left buried in Flemish soil. Both lads--they were grown men--at once
entered painters' studios--Dirk that of Abraam Bloemaert, and Franz that
of Karel Van Mander.

This statement brings us up smartly, for there has been nothing to
indicate that the brothers had served apprenticeships in Art. We must
then proceed by presumption and surmise in the story of their training,
for we may be quite sure that these eminent artists would not accept
raw, untaught youths as pupils.

Dirk and Franz had, of course, been reared in Antwerp, where the most
conspicuous teachers of painting were Otho Van Veen (1518-1629), a
painter of churches and portraits; Adam Van Noort (1557-1641), history,
large portraits, and genre; and Tobie Verghaegts (1566-1631), landscape
and architecture.

The brothers profited by their studies under such able masters, and at
Van Noort's they doubtless made the acquaintance of their fellow-pupils,
Pieter Paul Rubens and his friend, Hendrik Van Balen.

At Antwerp the two Hals would also be thrown into the company of Martin
de Vos, Erasmus Guellinus, Crispin Van der Broeck, the Galles, the Van
de Passes, the Wieriexes, Antonie Van Liest, Geenart Van Kampen, and
other draughtsmen, painters, and engravers.

Probably Mijnheer Pieter Hals himself was one of the company of
specialists--scholars, writers, readers, correctors, draughtsmen,
painters, etchers, scratchers, cutters, and the like, gathered together
by the enterprise of Christopher Plantin and other leading publishers.
The two sons, therefore, had great opportunities for the development of
their family talents.

Karel Van Mander, Franz Hals' master, the son of a noble family, was
born at Meulebeke, in Flanders, in 1548. He settled at Haarlem in 1583,
where he established himself as a teacher of drawing, and founded an
Academy of Painting in 1590. His style was historical, and he did
large-sized portraits and groups as well.

In addition to his celebrity as a painter Van Mander was noteworthy as a
man of many parts: a historian of the Netherlands, an annotator of the
classics, a poet in the vernacular, a musician, a linguist. His most
valuable contribution to literature was his splendid "Het Schilder
Boeck" or "Book of Painters," Dutch and Flemish.

His poem on Art, entitled "Den Handt der Edelvry Schilderconst," is full
of sage advice with respect to the manner and spirit in which a student
should approach his work; and he sums up his exhortations by saying:
"Success is only to be found in painstaking and constant observation of
all externals." He gives, as a wholesome motto to an aspiring artist, "I
will be a good painter," and, as a salutary warning against carnal
excess, the oppositive reflection: "Hoe Schilder--hoe wifder"--"As
demoralised as a painter!"

Van Mander's "Counsels of Perfection" for the behoof of his pupils are
as excellent as they are characteristic. "Avoid," says he, "little
taverns and bad company.... Don't let anybody see that you have much
money about you.... Be careful never to say where you are going.... Be
straight and courteous, and keep out of brawls.... Get up early and set
to work.... Be on your guard against light-hearted beauties!"

Three years before the Hals left Antwerp for their dear old home, Karel
Van Mander had been joined by two assistants in the work of the
Academy--Cornelis Cornelissen (1562-1637), and Hendrik Goltzius
(1558-1617). The former was a painter of allegory, mythology, and
portraits, a member of a celebrated artist family, and a native of
Haarlem; and the latter, the celebrated Flemish engraver, a native of
Meulebeke, famed too as a painter of landscape, history, and the nude.

At Haarlem were flourishing, at the time of the return of Mijnheer and
Mevrouw Hals, several distinguished artists, and among them Cornelis
Vroom (1566-1640), a marine painter, gifted in seafaring genre--a merry
fellow, and an habitué of low taverns, although he lived in a fine
house, with a frescoed front, in the Zijlstraat. He introduced the young
Hals to his friends and models.

Very many of the well-to-do citizens affected artistic studies, and
several became efficient painters. Of these Jan Van Heemsen (1570-1641),
a wealthy burgher and a friend of the Hals family, patronised Van Mander
and his pupils. He had considerable skill in painting life-size figures,
remarkable for easy pose, and animated manner--very much in the style
adopted by Franz Hals.

These Antwerp and Haarlem worthies were the "makers" of Franz Hals in
the elementals of his art; but no sooner did he pass within the portals
of Van Mander's Academy than the door was shut and fast-barred--for all
we know of him, his life, his work, and his associates, for eleven
years; and then, we behold him assisting at a homely and interesting
function.

In the Baptismal Registers of the Groote Keerke is the entry of a
new-born child--Herman, the son of Franz Hals and Anneke Hermanszoon, in
March 1611. Apparently he had been in no hurry to unite the bonds of
matrimony, and yet he had cause to repent at leisure, for his early
married life does not appear to have been very happy.

Within five years, namely, in February 1616, the name of the unfortunate
Anneke crops up again, and this time in the police records. Franz is
charged with ill-treating his wife, and with intemperance; and the
charges seem to have been proven, for he was reprimanded, and only
released under solemn promise of amendment of conduct, and, further, he
was admonished to forsake drunken company!

Poor Anneke died that self-same year, but we must not charge Franz as
the direct cause of her premature death; if he had become something of
a wastrel, as many affirm, she was probably a weakling, and they had
little in common.

Twelve months passed, and then, with due regard to mourning conventions,
Franz Hals married Lysbeth Reyniers, of Spaedam, and took her to live in
the Peeuselaarsteeg. They were kindred souls, and lived happily together
for fifty years.

To them were born many children--pledges of mutual love and home
restraint--Sara, in 1617; Jan, in 1618; Franz, in 1620; Adriaenjen, in
1623; Jacobus, in 1624; Reynier, in 1627; Nicolaes, in 1628; Maria, in
1631; and Pieter, in 1633; Herman, Anneke's son, making up the ten olive
branches.

What a happy, merry home must that have been in the Peeuselaarsteeg! How
greatly must his domestic joys have heartened the worthy father, and
given vein and tone to his work!

       *       *       *       *       *

    [Illustration: PLATE III.--THE MERRY TRIO

    (In America. A copy by Dirk Hals, Royal Museum, Berlin)

    Painted in 1616. A girl of the town gaily dressed, with open
    bosom--a thing abhorred by all worthy Dutch _vrouwen_--sits
    willy-nilly between the knees of a Falstaffian lover. He was
    probably the very pork-butcher who, in after years, became one of
    Hals' heaviest creditors. A saucy apprentice is holding over the
    amorous pair a coronal, not of orange-blossom but of sausages! He
    has gripped his master's shoulders to make him release his hold upon
    the girl's arm. Hals' treatment of the group was doubtless a
    remembrance of an allegorical picture he had seen at Antwerp, "The
    Feast of Love," by Franz Pourbus (1540-1601), and which now hangs in
    the Wallace Collection.]

Haarlem story is blank--Haarlem tradition is silent with respect to
Franz Hals' young manhood. The only hint that we have of his
existence is in 1604, when it is recorded that he was working still in
Van Mander's Academy. There is not the least tint of local colour, nor
the faintest trace of romance to be seen or heard until we are brought
face to face with the "Portrait of Dr. Pieter Schrijver," now at
Monsieur Warnecks' in Paris.

Upon the picture we see "F. H." and the date, 1613. This then is the
first intimation that Franz Hals had blossomed out as a painter of
portraits! The doctor was a well-known Haarlem poet, writer, chemical
student, and art critic. He flourished between the years 1570 and 1640.
The portrait shows us a middle-aged man of serious mien, but with no
peculiar characterisation of expression or figure. It is a sombre
production--black and grey, with merely a little brick-red here and
there; but the shadows upon the skin strike one as clever.

Franz Hals was thirty-three years of age in 1613--an age when artists
have either dismally failed and turned aside to more suitable
employment, or when they have established some sort of reputation and
their work is recognised, and examples of their style are broadcast. Not
so Franz Hals; but then there are, to be sure, scores of portraits
"attributed" to him of men and women and children to which no dates are
attached, and many of these are comparable with the portraits of
Schrijver in technique, colour, and finish. That he worked laboriously
to maintain his family, if for no other reason--and artists had to work
hard in those days of small payments--is evident both directly and
indirectly.

A few--very few--studies are extant, in black crayon upon dull blue
paper, which are noteworthy for simplicity and firmness. Two of these
are in the Teyler Museum at Haarlem, but they are evidently sketches for
his first great "Group of Shooters," in the Stadhuis. Three or four are
in England--one at the British Museum, and the Albertina Collection at
Vienna has a few, and that seems to be all.

Where, may we ask, are his studio canvases, his early panel portraits,
and all the thousand-and-one sketches and freaks of a young artist?
Perchance destroyed--possibly otherwise attributed--probably hidden away
in the high-pitched lofts of old Haarlem houses and _hofjes_ or asylums,
and in many an oaken chest and press.

Indirectly we are assured that he had been, all the thirteen years of
his residence in Haarlem, an indefatigable worker in the art of
portraiture--from the simple fact of his intimacy with Mijnheer Aert Jan
Druivesteen (1564-1617), who five times served the high office of
Burgomaster of Haarlem. He was a man of independent means and refined
tastes, a lover of artists, and himself also a very passable painter of
landscape and animals, which he painted solely for amusement.

Druivesteen was a personal friend of Franz Hals' father, and a constant
visitor at his house. From the first he greatly encouraged the young art
student, and many a time sat to him for his portrait. Alas! those
portraits have all disappeared or are undistinguishable.

From the influential position of his patron it is only a fair deduction
to suppose that other city magnates and leading townspeople also sought
their portraits at the hands of the Burgomaster's _protégé_.

The vogue of portraiture has always been the token of worldly success,
and eminent personages--and the reverse--from the days of the Pharaohs
to our own, have been eager that their physiognomies should be handed
down to posterity. This fashion took fast hold upon the opulent burghers
of the Netherlands, and they valued a painter in proportion as his work
ministered to their self-esteem.

Franz Hals, we may be sure, became very soon quite alive to this,
perhaps pardonable exhibition of personal vanity. No doubt the favourite
pose in his serious portraits--arms akimbo, and his favourite facial
expression--contemptuous satisfaction, were the natural, yet tactful,
outcome of his observations of men and manners!

But we are getting on a little too fast, for we must turn aside for a
moment and look at the "Portrait of Professor Jan Hogaarts" of the
Faculty of Theology in the University of Leyden, who was an able
teacher and protagonist, and a considerable student and writer of Latin.
Franz Hals painted his portrait in 1614, with similar treatment as that
of Dr. Schrijver. These are the only two works, signed and dated, during
fourteen years, and then our eyes are fastened in mute astonishment upon
the walls of the Haarlem Stadhuis, where, in 1616, was unveiled a
stupendous composition.

This is a revelation unique and overwhelming. We are in the grip of a
master-hand, and we must bow down before a genius who has, comet-like,
flashed upon us from the great unknown! There is nothing tentative,
nothing meretricious, in this masterpiece. It is a portrait group,
half-length, life-size, of eleven "Officers of the Shooting Guild of St.
Joris" (St. George).

The demand for great group portraits had just set in. The men who had
ridden in on the top of the waves of new institutions looked to have
their personalities placed in juxtaposition to those of monarchs,
rulers, and generals. Hence, go where you will in Holland--through
churches, museums, galleries, or Town Halls, you are faced by portrait
groups of life-size figures, whether they be of Governments and
Corporations, or Guilds and Institutions.

But, we are standing just inside the great Audience Hall of Haarlem
Stadhuis, and we hesitate to advance, for eighty-four vigorous and
solemn gentlemen and ladies are bending their steadfast gaze upon us, as
though resenting our intrusion! Eight picture groups by Hals cover the
walls--a pageant of portraits--five are _Schutters-stuken_ (Shooting
Groups), and three _Regenten-stuken_ (Governors of Alms Houses).

Guilds of marksmen in the Netherlands originated at a period when there
were no standing armies, and when the Trade Guilds were at the
full height of their prosperity. They served as rallying bases
in times of public danger, and as happy _rendezvous_ in days of
pleasure--"Soldier-Socials" we might call them.

Annual shooting contests for prizes were held at the _Schutters-Doelen_,
or butts--hence the name usually attached to the portrait-groups--and
periodical banquets provided, where good fellowship accompanied good
cheer, and where the toast of "Women, Wine, and Wit" never sated!

The commission to paint the first of these groups, "The Annual Banquet
of the Officers of the Shooting Guild of St. Joris" (St. George), was,
no doubt, given to Hals at the instance of his good friend Burgomaster
Druivesteen, who was himself a member of the Guild.

There are twelve Officers, including _Overste_, or Colonel, Pieter
Schoutts Jacobsen, who sits in front of the table with his arms akimbo.
They are middle-aged men, some aging, and are full-bearded and
moustached, except the two smart young standard-bearers. The party has
just finished dinner and toasts are being drunk. Through the window of
the room is a view of trees and buildings. The blacks and greys and
greens of the picture are relieved by the brilliant scarlet silken
scarves.

The effect of this splendid picture upon the men of Haarlem was
emphatic, and every Shooting Guild wished to follow suit; but the
painter was in no humour to wear himself out with toil, he preferred
the relaxation of convivial society.

In all the Dutch centres of population were numbers of "social" and
political clubs--some perhaps were merely drinking clubs. Among
their guests the most popular was the "Rederijkers-kammer de
Wijngaar-drankes," which had branches everywhere. Although nominally
"The Guild of Rhetoricians," the study of rhetoric _per se_ had nothing
whatever to do with its objects. It was, in short, a free-and-easy
Artists' Club. As "Heminnaars," or Fellows, Franz and Dirk Hals were
admitted to membership in 1617.

The men of Haarlem were merry fellows--they only put on their serious
manners with their Sunday clothes--and every tavern had its clientèle,
with flute, viol, and mandoline. They entered impromptu into the ranks
of entertainers. No _kermiss_, or fair, the country round, but had its
rollicking company of students. They played high jinks with jolly gipsy
girls, and drank with festive yokels. This life exactly suited the two
Hals brothers; moreover, it gave them opportunities, which Franz used
significantly, for studying character, and he gathered golden
laurels in his orgies.

    [Illustration: PLATE IV.--FRANZ HALS AND HIS WIFE

    (Rijks Museum, Amsterdam)

    Painted in 1624. No painter has left a more charming and more
    characteristic portrait of himself and his wife than this. There
    they sit, all in a garden green, as happy as happy can be. The
    "idea" was Lysbeth's. She knew Franz was painting other couples and
    getting wealth and fame--why not their own? She put on her best
    go-to-Groote-Keerke gown and a new cap, and made Franz don his Town
    Hall suit; she gauffered very carefully his cuffs, and tied round
    his neck his finest Van Dyck collar. The pose is splendidly
    realistic--good-humouredly she smiles, but he is in restless mood,
    as was his wont, and so she just grasps his shoulder--a reminder of
    the sweet restraint of happy married life! For fifty years they
    lived together, sharing their sorrows and their joys.]

Still the Hals, and their companions of the tankard and the brush, were
downright, loyal honest citizens, and all were enrolled in the ranks of
the Civic Guard--Franz and Dirk in 1618.

"The Banquet of the Shooting Guild of St. Joris" was not the only work
which Franz Hals signed and dated in 1616; at least two other very
striking portraits were finished. "Pieter Van der Morsch," now labelled
"The Herring Seller," was a beadle in the service of the Municipality of
Leyden, and a member of the "Guild of Rhetoric" of that city--an oldish
man with sparse locks and furrowed face. He is holding up a herring, and
on the canvas some one has scratched, "WIE BEGEERT?"--"Who'll buy?"

This portrait is the earliest dated work which exhibits Hals'
speciality--_characterisation_. It now belongs to the Earl of
Northbrook, but it sold in 1780 at a public auction in Leyden for the
ridiculous sum of £1, 5s.

"The Merry Trio" belongs to the same year, 1616. A girl of the town in
gala dress is seated, willy-nilly, between the knees of a Falstaffian
lover, whilst a saucy apprentice boy holds over the couple a mock
coronal of sausages! The man was evidently a pork butcher; probably one
of Hals' creditors later on. The pose and play were probably suggested
by an allegorical picture which had charmed the young artist in
Antwerp--"The Feast of Love," by Frans Pourbus (1540-1601), now in the
Wallace Collection. This humorous composition is in America; but a good
copy, said to be by Dirk Hals, hangs in the Royal Museum in Berlin.

But years pass on once more, and there is little enough of episode to
record in the life of our accomplished, jovial painter. Hals was now a
happy father, and his heart went out to children--his own were growing
fast, and their infant moods arrested him. Down by the sea-dunes, too,
were lads and lasses--strong and lithe of build, bronzed with the sun
and spray, full of life's gaiety. Of these he took liberal toll--just as
did Leonardo da Vinci of posturing peasant youths and maidens in Tuscan
villages. A merry suite of "Fisher-boys" and "Fisher-girls" danced off
his palette, and now they display his genre delightfully in many a
picture gallery.

There were also dignified patrons of Hals' brush in Haarlem, and rich
burghers and their wives sat to him by scores. At Cassel, dated 1620,
are portraits of a Haarlem gentleman and his spouse--the leading pair in
his procession of full-dress Mijnheers and Mevrouws "posed for
posterity," but rich in characterisation of face and hands--the latter a
very marked feature.

The years 1622, 1623, and 1624 are "red-lettered" for the historian of
Franz Hals, for among the portraits he dated then are three of
surpassing interest--"His own Likeness," "Himself and his Wife," and
"The Laughing Cavalier." The first of these belongs to the Duke of
Devonshire; it hangs at Devonshire House in Piccadilly, and has never
been exhibited.

This is "Franz Hals" as he wished to be known to posterity. His head,
slightly on one side, is marked by strong features--a nose which shows
strength of purpose, a mouth which indicates quiet decision, and dreamy
eyes, looking craftily for new impressions. It is a self-satisfied,
reflective face, with nothing base about it. The folded arms show grasp
of purpose and individuality of action, whilst the figure of the man is
in repose. The costume is sumptuous, full sleeves of heavy black silk
brocade, with the latest conceits in buttons and ruffled cuffs. He wears
the jewelled token of his Shooting Guild and the be-buttoned cloak of a
gentleman of the period. His frill is full, and it is of the finest
edged cambric--quite an ultra-mark of fashion! His hat is black
velvet--slouched, and steeple-crowned.[1]

[1] See page 11.

Merry groups and jovial couples were, of course, quite in Hals' way,
though probably he painted them for his own pleasure rather than for
love of gain. "Junkheer Rampf and his Lass" (1623)--somewhere
in Paris, Mons. Cocret's "Merry Supper Party," and a number of
"Rommel-pot-speelers"--perhaps "Drinks all round!" in English--at the
Hague, Berlin, and elsewhere, offer ample evidence of the painter's
free-and-easy manners and humorous genre.

    [Illustration: PLATE V.--THE OFFICERS OF THE SHOOTING GUILD OF ST.
    ADRIAEN

    (Town Hall, Haarlem)

    Painted in 1633. This, the second group of the St. Adriaen Officers,
    is the finest of all the five "Schutters-Doelen" at Haarlem. For
    clever arrangement of the figures and instantaneous catch of
    character it is unsurpassed. The armourer had furbished up the old
    halberds of the Company, which, with the banners, are quite
    significant features. The costumes are peculiarly rich and the
    sashes gaily ample; whilst the variety of ruffs and collars, and the
    trimming of the beards, indicate the vagaries of fashion. The
    Colonel--Jan Claesz Van Loo, with his hunt-stick--no doubt he was
    getting gouty!--sits, looking at you full in the face. The other
    Officers have all their eyes upon you; they are inviting you to join
    in their conviviality. The background of trees and farm-buildings
    suggests the delights of a picnic in the open air.]

Mevrouw Lysbeth knew all about these junketings, and, good soul, she
made no complaint, but on the contrary she challenged Franz to add his
own portrait with hers to the suite of jolly partners.

She put on her best black brocade gown, with its modish heliotrope
bodice, and went to the expense of the newest things in ruffs and cuffs.
Her hair--she was not richly dowered that way!--she coiffed neatly round
her head, and tied on the nattiest of little lace caps.

With Franz, no doubt, she had some trouble. He disliked very much
fashionable garments, but inasmuch as he had something of a position to
keep up as a member of the Haarlem municipality, she persuaded him to
get into his Groote Keerke and Stadhuis suit of black silk and stuff.
She brushed well his best beaver hat, carefully gauffered his cambric
cuffs, and pinned round his throat the best Mechlin lace collar he
possessed. His shoes were new and neatly bowed, and he, worthy fellow,
responded to his loving wife's playful whim by putting on--a thing quite
unusual for him--a pair of white kid gloves.

And there they sit, Franz and Lysbeth, all in a garden green, under a
shady oak tree, with a vision of architectural gardens and open fertile
country beyond. The pose was most certainly her idea, not his, for she
is smiling most good-humouredly at having gained her end! He would be up
and off, but she checks his movement, and the hand-grasp upon his
shoulder is a reminder of the sweet restraint of happy married life.

When this masterpiece was painted, the Hals were in comfortable
circumstances. The success of the "Group of Shooters" had greatly
enriched Franz, and his studio was thronged by opulent patrons, each
clamouring for his portrait.

The third picture of note in 1624 was "The Laughing Cavalier." Why, and
when, it gained its title nobody knows--in most catalogues it is
correctly called "Portrait of an Officer," a member of one of the
Shooting Guilds.

Whoever the gentleman may be, he had an uncommonly good conceit of
himself. He is not laughing, but expressing disdain of the world in
general, and amused contempt of you and me, who go to look at him, in
particular. The characterisation is so cleverly managed that one almost
fancies his expression changes; he appears to scowl and then to relax,
just as in actual life our features involuntarily keep up an incessant
play. His dress is unusually decorative, the colours are few but
superlatively arranged, the whole effect is wonderfully lifelike. It was
the happiest of happy thoughts which suggested the placing side by side,
at the Wallace Collection, masterpieces of the three greatest portrait
painters the world has seen--Velazquez, Rembrandt, and Hals. "The
Laughing Cavalier" loses nothing by proximity to "The Lady with a Fan"
and "The Unmerciful Servant."

But Hals had a mind to paint simpler subjects than these, and he turned
to children once more, as exhibiting most naturally and spontaneously
variety of character and expression. "Singing Boys," "Singing Girls,"
"Flute Players," "Mandolinists," and others, playing only pranks and
tricks, he welcomed to his studio--another Leonardo da Vinci trait!

He noted their expanding cheeks, he heard their melodious notes, he
understood the motions of their limbs, and fixed them all. They make us
smile with pleasure, so natural and lifelike are they at Haarlem,
Berlin, Brussels, Cologne, Cassel, and Königsberg--many of 1625, and
more elsewhere undated, but similarly characterised.

Two or three "_Zechbruders_" or "Jolly Topers," and some gay young
sparks with mandolines--"_Schalks naar_" or "Buffoon," as each is quite
erroneously styled--walked out of Hals' studio in 1625. Doubtless they
were skits or caricatures of fellow-artists, for the clever painters of
Haarlem were not quite "Fools" or "Buffoons," nor were they all only
"Jolly Topers."

All this time Hals was making arrangements with his old patrons of St.
Joris' Guild for another great portrait-group to be put up in the
Stadhuis. This was finished in 1627--it represents eleven Officers.

On comparing this Group with its predecessor we are struck with its
greater freedom and freshness. Hals was now painting more brilliantly,
and his colours blend more naturally. The success of the first St.
Joris' Group had fired the imagination of members of a rival Company,
the St. Adriaen's Guild; and it was determined that their Officers
should also adorn the walls of the Stadhuis. Consequently Hals had two
great groups to do, and no sooner had the carpenter hangers got St.
Joris No. 2 into position than their services were requisitioned for the
St. Adriaen's Group.

If profitable, nevertheless the painting of such portrait groups was
very troublesome, and no doubt Hals was very thankful to see the last in
his studio of these pictures. The jealousies, the corrections, and the
interruptions, in dealing with a lot of conceited Officers, must have
almost maddened him. Each man had his own ideas--and Hals had his. Each
wished to be as prominent as possible, and to cut a dash at his brother
officers' expense. Arrangement after arrangement failed.

At last Hals decided the matter once and for all. He declined positively
to paint a row of figures--he intended to make a picture. Therefore he
proposed an admirable plan, and one which recouped him well to
boot--those who paid most should have the places of honour!

The Colonel--generally one of the wealthiest members of the Guild--paid
the highest fee, and he is the most conspicuous figure in all the
"_Doelen_" pictures. Captains paid for second places, Lieutenants for
third, and Sergeants looked out from the back. The Standard-bearers were
exceptional individuals--the sons of rich fathers, who paid well for
good stations.

Again, a Shooting-brother was mulcted higher for a full-face than one
who had to put up with a three-quarter likeness--profiles were ruled
out. Once more, notice the cunning of the painter, every one of his
"_Schutters_" is an athlete, with a striking face! Each wears his best
dress, his sword hilt is of the latest Italian pattern, and each is
showing himself off to the greatest advantage--all the drakes are swans!

The St. Adriaen's Group of 1627 consists of twelve Officers, with
Colonel Jan Claesz Van Loo in the place of honour. Dinner is over, and
the diners are discussing the latest bit of gossip before separating.
One of the sergeants has been caught in the act of pocketing a bunch of
grapes, and his fellow is holding out a silver dish for its restoration.

Fashions, both of hair and clothes, of course, are similar to those worn
by the St. Joris' Schutters, except that the younger men are quite _à la
mode_ with respect to their slashed and puffed full sleeves. Of the two
groups this is the least mannered, and there is more atmosphere and
greater animation. Crude contrasting colours are softened down, and
luminous grey shadows make play around the men. Each individual's
expression is personal and original, and the characterisation of each is
so wonderfully full of life that, if any one of them was to walk off the
wall and greet us, we should feel that we knew just what sort of a man
he was.

This is perfect portraiture; it is more--it is clairvoyancy in paint.

       *       *       *       *       *

In the decade 1630-1640 Franz Hals was acknowledged as first painter in
Holland. He stood head and shoulders above everybody else in his freedom
of treatment, unconventionality of pose, manipulative facility,
fidelity of colouring, boldness of shadow, and the marvellous certainty
of his flesh tones. His technique, in short, was unrivalled, and the
emphasis with which he expressed feature and mood was astounding.

His illumination was golden, and the animation of his figures
extraordinary. Like Michael Angelo he preferred men to women, as
exhibiting more character and less liable to affectation. He neither
wasted time in making studies for his compositions, nor frittered it
away in elaborate corrections. His brush knew one stroke only--his
impasto was laid on at once. Simply in details of hair, lace, and
brocade did he elaborate.

The same decade was the most brilliant period of the Dutch School
generally; the greatest painters were all working away on canvas and
panel, making world's records in Art. Every town, and many a country
place, had its studios and schools of painting, but Haarlem was easily
first as the home and headquarters of painters. "Boldness and truth" was
the municipal motto, and this is eloquent in all the work of Franz
Hals.

    [Illustration: PLATE VI.--THE JOLLY MANDOLINIST (DER NAAR)

    (Collection of Baron G. Rothschild, Paris. A copy by Dirk Hals in
    Rijks Museum, Amsterdam)

    Painted in 1625. This is a very jolly fellow! It is a portrait of
    one of Hals' favourite pupils, Adriaen Brouwer, who was also
    renowned for his musical gifts and his love of practical jokes; he
    painted pictures too sometimes! His nickname in the studios was
    "_Der Naar_"--"Funny Man!" The "Jolly Mandolinist" must have caught
    sight of one of his lady-loves at a window, or a painting chum. His
    _staccato_ note ends in a genial smile, and he is ready for a joke
    or a hand-tossed kiss. This has Hals splendidly fixed, a snapshot
    would not have had a more instantaneous effect. The Spanish costume
    suggests the celebration of one of the famous Haarlem
    masquerades.]

And Haarlem was the most prosperous of cities. Between 1630-1640 the
Tulip mania was at its height, and Haarlem was the metropolis of the
bulb. It is said that in one year the florists of the city cleared
twelve million golden florins.

To Haarlem, as to an artists' Mecca, flocked teachers, students, and
connoisseurs from all lands, and among the rest came a notable pilgrim,
Anthonie Van Dyck.

Mincing along in his courtier-like manner, in search of impressions, he
wished to see for himself the master about whom gossip had spun such
wonderful stories, and to watch him at work. He was at The Hague, the
honoured guest of Frederick of Nassau, Prince of Orange, painting
princely patrons, and it was not more than a Sabbath-day's journey to
Haarlem.

So one bright morning in June that year, 1630, Van Dyck, unannounced,
knocked at Franz Hals' front door. Vrouw Hals greeted the stranger
courteously--"My husband," she said, "is not at home, maybe he is at the
Life School; will the gentleman step in and rest."

Jan, who was just twelve years old, was sent to look for his father, and
at last discovered him, not at his studio, but with some boon companions
in the little back room of his favourite tavern hard by. Perhaps among
the "Merry Topers" there were famous Admiral Van Tromp, killed in 1653,
and his jolly comrade, Jan Barentz, the entertaining cobbler--late a
lieutenant in the fleet, whose portrait Hals painted many a time as a
"Jolly Toper," with his great big hands and grinning face, squinting at
the liquor level of his tell-tale glass.

"There is a smart gentleman, all the way from Antwerp, to see you, dad,
and he wants you to paint his portrait," so ran on the lad.

Hals bid his boy go home, finished his tankard and his pipe, and
leisurely sauntered along. He was in no good-humour at the interruption,
and gave the stranger a cool welcome. At first he demurred at being
called upon to paint a man he had never seen before, and whose features
and figure he had had no opportunity of studying.

Van Dyck, without revealing his identity, begged him to proceed, and
offered him a tempting fee. Without more ado Hals snatched up the first
old canvas lying on the floor, and in a couple of hours he had painted,
in a manner which greatly astonished his sitter, a telling likeness.

Van Dyck laid down the amount he had promised, but asked Hals whether he
might, in return, attempt to paint his portrait. Hals was astounded, and
more so as the visitor progressed, for it was borne in upon him that
such a stylish _virtuoso_ could be none other than his famous rival, the
great Flemish master. "Who the devil are you?" he exclaimed. "Why, you
must be Anthonie Van Dyck!"

Van Dyck was exigeant that Hals should accompany him to England, where
he had been summoned by the king. No words and no inducement could move
Hals out of Holland--it was his home, it was his world; Dutch of the
Dutch was he, bred in the bone!

Van Dyck departed much disappointed, but he charmed the Vrouw Lysbeth
and the kiddies by leaving behind for them twenty silver florins. As
for Hals, he went back to his pots and his paints.

In the Schwerin Gallery is a "Portrait of a Man" with a good deal of
Franz Hals about it, variously attributed to him and to Van Dyck. Maybe
it is the one painted in Haarlem that hot June day in 1630.

Eight superb portraits by Hals were dated this self-same year: "The
Group of the Beresteyn Family," and "The Gipsy Girl" (La Bohémienne), at
the Louvre; "The Mandoline Player"--_Der Schalksnaar_, in Baron Gustave
Rothschild's Collection in Paris; "Nurse and Child," and "The Jolly
Toper," at the Royal Gallery in Berlin; "Portrait of a Man" ("_ætat suæ_
36") at Buckingham Palace; Mijnheer Willem Van Heythuysen, at the
Belvedere Gallery in Vienna--the full-length, Velazquez-like standing
portrait; and "Portrait of a Young Girl," of the Beresteyn family at
Haarlem.

_Der Schalksnaar_--called also "The Fool," "The Buffoon," "The Jester,"
and, far more suitably, "The Mandoline Player"--is allowed to be the
finest character-portrait in the world. Velazquez and Rembrandt never
did anything so acutely life-like.

It is a "snapshot," so to speak, of Adriaen Brouwer, one of Hals'
favourite and most distinguished pupils, whose renown as a painter of
peasant genre was equalled by his fame as an archplayer of practical
jokes and as a brilliant musician and _improvisatore_. Here he is, in
fancy Spanish dress, red and yellow, with a real old Hispano-Moorish
mandoline. His nickname in the studios was "_Der Naar!_" "Funny Fellow!"
His face--clean-shaven, but still something of a stranger to soap and
water--reflects, with amazing truthfulness and vitality, the emotions of
the moment.

He laid a wager that he would make his _innamorata_ peep out of her
window and wave her hand at him. The _staccato_ notes of the serenade
have not yet quite died away, the strummer's hand has not relaxed its
tension on the strings of the instrument, as the singer throws up a
rapid glance of recognition.

"Nurse and Child" is as charming as anything in all the works of Franz
Hals. Nothing can be imagined more natural, more simple, more
appealing. At first sight the woman--she may be thirty--appears posed,
but her expression is that of momentary abstraction from the restless
exigencies of nursing. She is goodness and gentleness personified, and
her pinned-up cap lappels tell of busy little fingers close by.

The baby is to the life. He is a vigorous youngster, the latest little
son of the ancient North Holland family of Ilpenstein, prominent in
Haarlem story. He has grabbed his nurse's brooch whilst he turns to have
a good look at you, and, presto, he will bury his head in her kindly
bosom with a merry laugh. His face is a _tour de force_--that of a rare
critic, as all healthy babies are. I question whether any painter has
painted a child's _coming_ smile as Hals has done here.

The dress, a splendid piece of gold brocade in colours, must be an
inspiration from Pieter Breughel, "le Velours" (1568-1625), whose
mastery of glossy patterned stuffs is almost inimitable. The lace looks
as if Hals had just cut lengths of rare Mechlin point and pasted them
upon his canvas. Why, we can count every thread and knot!

The year that gave date to these widely differing, but admirably
agreeing, character-portraits also witnessed the foundation of Franz
Hals' Life School. Very soon after the death of Van Mander, in 1606, the
famous Academy of Painting began to decline in popularity. The
dissolution of partnership between Cornelissen and Goltzius, and their
departure from Haarlem, caused its doors to be closed.

Whether he wished it or not, a goodly company of artists looked to Franz
Hals as their leader, and so the mantle of Van Mander fell upon the
shoulders of his most distinguished pupil.

Among those who foregathered in the new Academy were Pieter Soutman
(1580-1657), Pieter Potter, father of Paul (1587-1642), Willem Claesz
Heda (1594-1680), Jan Cornelisz Verspronett (1597-1662), Hendrik
Gerritsz Pot (1600-1656), Pieter Molyn (1600-1661), Pieter Fransz De
Grebber (1610-1665), Antonie Palamedesz Stevaerts (1604-1680), Adriaen
Brouwer (1605-1638), Dirk Van Deelen (1605-1671), Cæsar Van Everdingen
(1606-1679), Pieter Codde (1610-1666), Bartholomeus Van der Helst
(1610-1670), Adriaen Van Ostade (1610-1685), Philippe Wouwermans
(1620-1668), Isaac Van Ostade (1621-1649), Pieter Roestraeten
(1627-1698), who married Sara, Franz Hals' eldest daughter; Vincenzius
Laurenszoon Van der Vinne (1629-1702), and Job Berckheijde (1630-1693),
with Hals' five sons and his brother Dirk.

There is in Haarlem Stadhuis a very interesting painting by the last of
these, which shows Franz Hals' Life School and some of his pupils in the
year 1652. Work is in full swing, and five of the master's sons--the
youngest, Nicolaes, being twenty-four years old--and Dirk Hals with Van
Deelen, Molyn, Berckheijde himself, and his little brother Gerritsz,
seated at a table, are drawing from a nude model. The master is by the
door, chatting with Philippe Wouwermans, who has just popped in to see
how things are getting on.

It is said that Hals "sweated" his pupils by making them draw and paint
subjects for which he paid them little or nothing, and which he sold at
fair prices to meet his weekly tavern reckonings. Adriaen Brouwer is
named as "living-in" at the Halsian establishment, with an uncomfortable
bed, insufficient food, and scanty clothing! Be these tales what they
may, there is characteristic evidence that Hals and his pupils lived on
good terms. An amusing story is told by the Haarlem historian and
biographer, Jacob Campo Weyerman, in his "Sevens-Beschrijoingen der
Nederlondsche Konst-Schilders," of the goings on at the Life School.

    [Illustration: PLATE VII.--THE MARKET GIRL (LA BOHÉMIENNE)

    (Louvre Gallery, Paris)

    Painted in 1630. They call her "La Bohémienne" in Paris, but why we
    do not know. She is _not_ a gipsy girl, but a slut out of Haarlem
    Fish-market, wholly bereft of all sense of appearance, and caring
    only for passing joke and gibe. The girl was a favourite studio
    model also, for studies of a figure and face like hers abound in the
    work of Haarlem painters. Thinly painted, in simple colours, this is
    a masterpiece of pigment snapshots. Its sauciness is as natural as
    may be. No doubt she and Hals exchanged many a bit of racy banter;
    perhaps she dared him to paint her just as she was.]

The master's addiction to strong drink called for energetic action, and
the older pupils were accustomed of an evening to take it in turn to
fetch him home from his cups, undress him, and tuck him comfortably into
bed.

"Now when Franz, lying in bed, thought he was alone in his room, his
piety came to the surface; for however tipsy he might be he generally
closed his halting prayer with this petition: 'Dear Lord, take me soon
up into Heaven!' Some pupils who heard him repeat this request night
after night decided to test one day whether their master was really in
earnest, and Adriaen Brouwer--that ape of humanity--undertook to carry
out the joke. Brouwer, in company with another pupil called Dirk Van
Deelen, bored four holes in the ceiling, right above Franz' bedstead,
and through these lowered four strong ropes, which they fastened to the
four corners of the bed, and then waited eagerly for their master's
return home. Hals returned towards night in merry mood, and his pupils
helped him to bed according to their wont, took away the light, and then
crept quietly upstairs to set their plan in motion. As soon as Franz
began his usual orison, 'Lord, take me up soon into Heaven,' they drew
him and his bedstead gently up a little, whereupon Hals, half dazed,
fancying that his prayer was being answered literally, altered his tone,
and began to cry out lustily: 'Not so fast, dear Lord! not so fast!'"

Hardly able to restrain their mirth the mischievous young dogs quietly
let their burden down, slipped off the ropes, and themselves slipped
away, to tell their fellows the joke. "Franz," continues Weyerman, "did
not discover the trick until several years after!"

The years 1631 and 1632 were lean years in Hals' output, but the year
1633, which gave us "Portrait of a Man" at the National Gallery--a fresh
complexioned, easy going gentleman about thirty to forty years of age,
in an astonishingly voluminous ruff, quite a bygone fashion in
that year--saw a _chef-d'oeuvre de chefs-d'oeuvres_, another
"_Schutters-stuk_," put up in the Stadhuis at Haarlem.

"The St Adriaen's Doelen," No. 2, consists of fourteen officers, nearly
all of whom are gazing good-humouredly right out at their visitors, and
inviting all and sundry to join in the conviviality. Each face is a
pleasant character-study, for each man has dined well and is content.

Colonel Jan Claesz Van Loo is seated on the left, holding a stout
walking-stick--probably he has contracted gout since his appearance in
1627! Seven of the officers hold halberds--a decided novelty in
accessories, which adds greatly to the picturesque effect. One wonders
whether anybody had whispered to Hals the news that Velazquez had
painted his "Surrender of Breda" with halberds and lances _galore_!
Anyhow Hals would not be caught napping by an intrusive Spaniard!

The Group is far and away the most easily arranged of all the
_Schutters-stuken_. The waving foliage and smiling landscape predicate
breeze and sun, for the gathering is _al fresco_ in the gardens of
Roosendaal, the Hampton Court of Haarlem. The officer seated upon the
table is Lieutenant Hendrik Pot--a favourite pupil--a speaking likeness.

Fashions have changed, they are richer and more decorative with silken
stitching and laced scarves. The colours, greys, greens, browns, and
dull blues are softened by the leafy environment. "_En plein air_" is
the cry of modern Impressionists, but here we have it, where, perhaps,
we should not look for it. This is in truth one of the world's chief
masterpieces, and the efforts its execution called forth told greatly
upon its creator.

Certainly he went on painting, and probably he went on carousing too;
but silence again settles down upon him, and a meagre list of fifteen
signed and dated portraits completes his work until 1637.

We find him now not at Haarlem, but at Amsterdam; not drinking, but
painting--painting what Dr. Bürgher, the art critic, asserts is "the
most astounding picture of the Dutch School." Probably Hals frequently
visited the capital of the chief province, there to see what other
artists were doing, and to sample the pleasures of its convivial life.

His visit in 1657 was of considerable duration, for he was painting "The
Officers of the Civic Guard" under their commander, Colonel Reynier
Reaels. There are sixteen full-length, life-size figures, posed after
the manner of the Haarlem _Schutters-stuken_. They are clad in dark-blue
uniforms, with the exception of the Standard-bearer--a gorgeous
individual in golden brown, with leggings, laced and bowed, his arms
akimbo, bearing himself with such a swagger as only Franz Hals knew how
to paint.

This splendid portrait group hangs at the Rijks Museum in Amsterdam, at
no great distance from Rembrandt Van Rijn's "Night Watch," so we can
take stock of both together.

It is not a little significant that Amsterdamers, famed for what the
Tuscans used to call "_il Spirito del Campanile_," should have had to go
to Haarlem for their man! Were there not painters on the spot, and what
about Rembrandt, he was not very busy in 1637? No; no one could do this
sort of thing so well as Hals.

In 1639 he completed his quintet of _Schutters-stuken_ or
_Doelen_--portrait groups in Haarlem Stadhuis; his patrons were once
more "The Officers of St. Joris' Shooting Guild."

Here we are in the open with the wind swaying the unfurled banners and
rustling the leaves of the trees. The _rendezvous_ is the orchard of the
Hofje Van Oud Alkemude de XII. Apostelen, with its garden-pavilion, in
the tower of which Hals is said to have painted a _Schutters-stuk_;
beyond are the Haarlem woods.

The Group consists of nineteen Officers, with Colonel Jan Van Loo. The
men are arranged in two somewhat stiff lines--perhaps they all asked
front places and paid well! With his usual modesty Hals has put himself
in the back row, but in much better guise than his next neighbour, a
distinctly _blasé_ individual. They are all well-set-up men, and dressed
in the new fashion, tending rather to effeminacy.

The atmosphere and illuminations are vibrant, but the colours are
restrained, the shadows are grey, and the animation does not equal that
of the 1633 Group. Perhaps Hals was degenerating with the passing
age--certainly he was ageing.

However, he finished off his best decade with a remarkable little
snapshot portrait, a fisher-lad of Katwyk. "_De Strandlooper_" he has
called it; it hangs in Antwerp Museum. He saw the boy running up and
down the dunes; he was an odd-looking bit of humanity.

"Sit down just where you are," said Hals, "fold your arms, and don't
take your eyes off me." A rough drawing was soon knocked off, just to
fix values, and then the master added, "Come along with me now to
Haarlem, and half a Carolus guelder for you." Then he fixed the oddest
of odd smiles, and the "Beach urchin" remains to prove that the old
man, vigorous, had lost very little of his cunning after all.

       *       *       *       *       *

The last twenty-five years of Hals' life were marked by experiences
wholly unlike the circumstances of the preceding decade.

If between 1630-1640 he approached Velazquez and painted dignified
magnates and others, with a brush dipped in gold and a palette of
luminous colours, in the end of his days he was near Rembrandt with no
less characteristic groups and individuals, and his hues are silvery and
his shadows impressive.

The _Regenten Stuken_, the "Five Governors of the St. Elizabeth
Almshouse" or _Oudemaanenhuis_, exposed in the Haarlem Stadhuis in 1641,
might, for all the world, be the work of the great Amsterdam master,
just as the latter's "Staalmeester's" of 1661 might be his.

The Group in question consists of five most serious and reverent city
fathers, seated comfortably at their Board table. Not a bit of worldly
conceit, not a decorative adjunct of any kind, adorns the composition,
but it is a perfect achievement. The sombre black garments and
steeple-crown hats have a lustre of their own, and, standing well out of
the greyish-green wall behind, they throw up wonderfully facial
expression and manual dexterity. The plain linen collars and
well-starched cuffs tone down the ashen-red shadows upon the skin, and
the clustering locks of long black hair, tinged with grey, form halos
around the wrinkles.

    [Illustration: PLATE VIII.--NURSE AND CHILD

    (Royal Museum, Berlin)

    Painted in 1630. This is one of the very best of all Hals'
    compositions. The Nurse is a buxom lass of North Holland, and the
    Child, the little son of Mijnheer Julius Ilpensteen, a wealthy
    German merchant, settled at Haarlem, and engaged in tulip-growing.
    The expression of the youngster, just about to explode with laughter
    at something droll which has caught his eye, and then shyly to bury
    his head in his crooning nurse's bosom, has been caught quite
    wonderfully. The dress is rich, and the Mechlin lace collar is so
    actual that it might really be a "piece" cut off and pasted on the
    canvas! It is said that Hals had been twitted with his fondness for
    dirty, unkempt children as models for his snapshots of character,
    here he has vindicated his sense of elegance.

    Compare this charming subject with the character-portrait of the
    "Strandlooper" at Antwerp, and Hals' grip of children's expressions
    is seen to be emphatic and unlimited.]

Haarlem possessed many charitable institutions to which the general
title "_Hofjes_" was attached. It became the happy custom, well on in
the seventeenth century, for wealthy citizens to build and endow
almshouses, hospitals, and the like--in the first instances as monuments
of individual prominence and ultimately as memorials of family pride.
Founders and their relatives were the earliest governors, and then
administrative powers were merged in trusts and municipal offices, and
foremost citizens formed their Boards.

Franz Hals' great good-nature and his merry haphazard way of life made
him a favourite everywhere--he was everybody's friend. His appointment
in 1643 as "Vinder" of the Haarlem Lodge of the Artists' Guild
of St. Luke was very popular. The functions of the office exactly
suited the free-and-easy master-painter; they were analogous
to those which attached to the corresponding Italian office of
_provvidetore_--controller, caterer, and perhaps toast-master, all
rolled into one.

Nobody has testified to Vrouw Lysbeth's satisfaction at this promotion;
it was a real ray of sunshine in the gathering clouds of age and
anxiety. No doubt she still smiled--not as naïvely as in that garden
green in 1630, but hopefully.

But Hals was already beginning to grow indolent. Was it the natural
change of life, or was it the effect of self-indulgence? Who shall say?
Charity thinks and speaks kindly we know. Anyhow nine long years steal
quietly along, and all the signed and dated work he did was just nine
portraits and not one of them of marked excellence.

Poverty began to look in at the windows of the house in the
Peeuselaarsteeg, what time silence or indolence settled there, but what
cared the merry old painter, for love opened the door, and kept it upon
the latch--Lysbeth did not chide Franz, and Franz did not vex Lysbeth.

Twenty years or so before Hals had picked up many a splendid subject for
his portrait-characterisation or portrait-caricature in Haarlem markets,
and many a flighty _markt-deern_, besides the untidy fish-girl of 1630,
had been his model. Then he loved young girls--at seventy his friends
were _viele deerne_ of the _Kraegs_ or common taverns.

One old lady had for many a long day taken his fancy, not that she was
comely, sober, or fair spoken, quite the reverse, nevertheless her
striking play of features and the wrinkling of her leathery skin had an
occult fascination for Franz.

They called her "Hille Bobbe," but her name was Aletta or Alle Bol or
Bollij; and she lived in a hovel by the Fish-market. Nobody ever got the
better of old Hille, but she let everybody know what she thought of him
and his!

At Lille is a "Laughing Hussy," painted by Hals in 1645; at Berlin is
the old lady with her tankard and an owl, done in 1650; and at Dresden
the same _viele deern_ is scolding a yokel, who is smoking over her
stall of unboiled lobsters, 1652 (?). They are all three most simply
painted in black and grey, and just faint traces of ochre and red. The
deep shadows point to a meagre palette and a brush worn down, but the
result is striking and original. Nobody knows what the owl had to do
with the old lady, probably a painters' joke at the model's expense.

In ten more years Franz Hals signed and dated no more than ten pictures.
Was he idle? Was he ill? Was he dissolute? We cannot say; we have no
data to go upon. The next note we have is an alarm signal, for, in 1652,
one Jan Ykess, a baker, obtained a warrant whereby he sued Hals for two
hundred Carolus guilders on account of comestibles supplied to him and
his wife. A distress was issued, and the forced sale of three thin
mattresses and bolsters, a ricketty armoire, and an old oak-table, with
five oil paintings, barely sufficed to clear the bill.

Other creditors, and there were not a few, got nothing; apparently
there were no other assets. But two years later Hals gave his butcher of
"The Merry Trio," a painting by Jan Razet, "St. John the Baptist
preaching," by way of compensation.

This is indeed a sad revelation, and its sadness is intensified by the
apparent want of filial piety on the part of Franz' sons and daughters.
They were all living, and, except Pieter, domiciled in Haarlem. Only
Maria was unmarried. All were in good circumstances. Nicolaes,
"_Vinder_" in 1662, had been a member of the Corporation since 1655. Why
they did nothing to assist their parents in their distress nobody has
recorded. There is no note of family feuds: perhaps Franz' pride refused
natural assistance.

In 1655, and again in 1660, Hals painted and dated many portraits, as
though he was forced to do something to keep the wolf from the door.
Many of these are remarkable, not only as the work of an old man, but as
exhibitions of new methods. "René Descartes," at the Louvre, and "Tyman
Oosdorp," at Berlin--reminiscent perhaps of "Jan Hornebeeck of Leyden,"
at Brussels, painted in 1648--have fixed unhappy faces, all in dull
black and grey, with dark shadows suffusing everything. Surely they are
reflections of the painter's darkening view of life in grumbling,
unmerry mood.

The clouds, however, appear to have been at least partially dissipated,
for in the latter year we have a smiling face again, and, perhaps, one
of the last which smiled on "Hals of Antwerp!" The _Schlapphut_, "The
Slouch Hat," now at Cassel, is a real _chef-d'oeuvre_. A young man,
seated sideways, with his arm across the back of his chair, looks out of
the grey-green-black background with a saucy air. He is saying, "I
wonder what you think of me!" It takes a little time to focus this
impression, for Hals has dashed on his pigments almost too liberally,
and he has gashed and smeared the mass with his hardest brush. When we
do get the point of view, we feel disposed immediately to snub the young
upstart for his impertinence.

In spite of these spurts, and others, misfortune fell the way of Franz
and Lysbeth Hals. In the spring of 1662 the old man applied to the
Municipal Council for assistance. His plea was not in vain, for, with
characteristic good-fellowship, a dole was immediately forthcoming--fuel
and aliment--and with them a benefaction of 150 Carolus guilders (circa
£26).

Old Hals could still, vigorous old fellow that he was, hold his palette
and his brush--and to good use too--nor did he quite lack for patrons.
Upon the Board of the _Oudevrouwenhuis_ (Old Women's Alms House) were
several old chums of his who, in solemn conclave met, agreed unanimously
to commission the aged master to paint two portrait-groups--one of
themselves, and the other of the Lady Governors of the Béguinage for old
and reduced gentlewomen, which Mijnheer Nicolaes Van Beresteyn had
founded in 1611.

This was a noble act of charity conceived in the best possible spirit,
for any fear of Franz' ability was quite outweighed by the wish to
minister, so as not to offend in any way, his _amour propre_. And Hals
set to work upon the last efforts of his life, and finished and dated
both groups in 1664. He was eighty-four; and thus they are in the
Stadhuis, side by side with his five festive _Schutters-stuken_.

The _Regentessen van der Oudevrouwenhuis_ (The Lady Governors of the Old
Women's Alms House) are not distinguishable for youth or beauty, and yet
the five old faces are very attractive in their sternness. Probably they
were quite prepared to resent any impropriety on the part of the jovial
old artist. Their pursed-up lips, their peering gaze, and the muscular
contraction of their hands convey this impression. Their garments are as
plain as their persons, and there is nothing decorative in the
composition--everything is subdued black and grey, but the illumination
and animation are splendidly evident although held in check.

The _Regenten van der Oudemannenhuis_ (The Governors of the Old Men's
Alms House), on the other hand, has much less force, and, compared with
the earlier group of 1641, it is nerveless and moribund. The five
Governors are old, weary, and sad. The colours are greyish, the
brushwork feeble, and expressionless faces match the ashen pallor of
the skin. Their hands, too, have lost their grip, and there is no curl
in their hair. Humour is no longer Hals' painting mixture, the pathos of
"the passing" is upon him; and yet, with an evident expiring effort, the
youngest of the five old men actually displays the gaiety of a scarlet
knee-ribbon--it is the last impression of a parting touch!

And now the brush falls from the painter's hand; the few colours left
upon his palette are dry; and his enfeebled vigour is tired out. No
doubt the emolument he received for these two most impressive, most
touching portrait-groups was in the nature of a pension to keep him and
his old wife in something like comfort till the end.

For that end Franz Hals had not long to wait. Perhaps it is as well that
we have no account of his sufferings and his death. Only one more
historical note can be adduced to complete the life's story of "Hals of
Haarlem"--the notice of his burial. On September 1, 1666, all that
remained of him was buried, with some amount of circumstance, in the
Groote Keerke of St. Bavon. His body rests in the choir, with the ashes
of Haarlem's most famous sons, and, if no meretricious sculptured
memorial exists to fix the very spot, the monogram, upon a flat stone
underfoot, "F. H.," reminds the pilgrim to the painter's shrine of all
he was and all he did--simple and unaffected.

       *       *       *       *       *

Poor old Lysbeth survived her husband many years, as poor as poor could
be. In 1675 she made a pathetic appeal for relief, and the miserable
pittance of fourteen _sous_ a week was accorded her. The dear old soul
languished and died, with apparently no child at hand to comfort her. No
record of her last hours tells where she died--probably in some
_Oudevrouwenhuis_ or other, and of her grave no man knoweth.


    The plates are printed by BEMROSE & SONS, LTD., Derby and London
    The text at the BALLANTYNE PRESS, Edinburgh





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