Baroque and Rococo
 


     

Baroque and Rococo Art Map






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Jacob Jordaens


Frans Hals

 

 
 

Jacob Jordaens


born May 19, 1593, Antwerp, Spanish Netherlands [now in Belgium]
died Oct. 18, 1678, Antwerp


Baroque artist whose boisterous scenes of peasant life and sensuous allegories made him one of the most important painters of 17th-century Flanders.

Jordaens studied, like Peter Paul Rubens, under the painter Adam van Noort, and he married his master's daughter in 1616, the year after his admission to the guild of painters. Early in his career Jordaens executed designs for tapestries, and such paintings as “Allegory of Fertility” (c. 1625; Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts, Brussels) reveal his training as a decorator. He never went to Italy as did other Flemish artists of his time, and his work is essentially Flemish in its exaggerated treatment of form and its crude humour. Jordaens was greatly influenced by his older contemporary Rubens. The colours of Jordaens' paintings are warm and glowing, his figures are robust and incline to corpulence, and their faces are red and healthy. Jordaens' paintings are particularly noted for their strong contrasts of light and shade, their compositions crowded with figures, and an air of sensual vitality that occasionally borders on coarseness. He was a prolific painter and employed many pupils in his studio to reproduce versions of his most popular pictures, such as “The King Drinks” and “The Satyr and Peasant.”

Jordaens declared himself converted to Calvinism in 1648 but received many commissions for Roman Catholic churches, and after the death of Rubens he was considered the greatest painter in Antwerp. In 1652 he played a major role in the decoration of the Huis ten Bosch (“House in the Woods”), a royal country house near The Hague, with mural paintings representing the “Triumph of Frederick Henry of Orange, Stadt holder of Holland” and “The Victory of Time.” These works are masterpieces of architectural decoration, in which the complex allegory is rendered in exuberant colours and vivacious, swirling lines. Jordaens' later works are of uneven quality, showing the increasingly important role assumed by his studio assistants.

(Encyclopaedia Britannica)
 


Jacob Jordaens
Self-portrait among Parents, Brothers and Sisters
1615
Oil on canvas, 178 x 138 cm
The Hermitage, St. Petersburg
 


Jacob Jordaens
Self-portrait among Parents, Brothers and Sisters
(detail)
1615
Oil on canvas, 178 x 138 cm
The Hermitage, St. Petersburg

 

 


Jacob Jordaens
Selbstportrat und Portrat der Familie seines Schwiegervaters
ca.1616

see collection:
 

Jacob Jordaens
 
Frans Hals

 


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Jacob Jordaens



The Artist and his Family


 


   

Jacob Jordaens
The Family of the Artist
1621
Oil on canvas, 181 x 187 cm
Museo del Prado, Madrid
     

 

In this almost quadratic picture, which entered the Prado from the collection of Philip IV in 1829, the Flemish painter Jacob Jordaens proudly presents himself and his family. The view from below -eye level is practically ground level - lends the subject dignity. The use of this optical device allows Jordaens to portray himself in an almost aristocratic light. In 1621 he was made Dean of the Guild of St. Luke in Antwerp and later carried out a large number of royal commissions, both independently and under Rubens's guidance.
The composition defines family gender roles. Jordaens himself stands on the right, one foot casually supported on the crossbar of a raised chair. His right hand leans on the chair's backrest, while his left holds the neck of a lute. His wife, wearing elegant clothes and a large ruff, sits on the left on a lower chair, her arms casually holding her little girl. In her hands, the girl has a basket of flowers and an apple. In the middle ground, between husband and wife, is another girl, who, although also shown frontally, is the only figure not to gaze directly at the spectator. The older girl is generally held to be a servant. However, she is shown here holding a basket of grapes. This role is usually ascribed to children m seventeenth-century Netherlandish family portraits. The grape-motif is a symbol for the strength of familiy ties, based on the old meaning of the Eucharist. The girl is probably between thirteen and fifteen years old. If she were really the daughter of the artist, who married the daughter of his teacher Adam van Noort in 1616, then the portrait could not have been painted in 1620/22, as is generally supposed, but must have been executed eight to ten years later.
Jordaens, like Rubens, saw himself as a scholar. Indeed, notwithstanding his membership in what amounted to a guild for craftsmen, he saw himself as a highly sophisticated court painter. This portrait, for example, is full of hidden allusions to his status and to his - albeit hardly unconventional at the time - ideas on marriage and the family. A putto at the top left of the painting suggests marriage is a union based on love, not merely on property. The putto is riding a dolphin, which, since early Christian times, had been viewed as an archetypical symbol - often in relation to the story of Jonas - for Christ's death and resurrection. Marriage is thus portrayed as a union founded on faith. The parrot in the top left, a Marian attribute, is, by allusion to the purity of the Virgin, a cipher for the chastity expected of married women. The dog behind the artist is a symbol of devotion (compare van Eyck's Arnolfini portrait,) implying - as a kind of "quid pro quo" for his wife's promise of chastity - the conjugal fidelity sworn bv the husband.

As in Frans Floris's family portrait (1561; Lier), the musical instrument stands for "concordia", family harmony. At the same time, in recalling Leonardo's description of an elegantly dressed painter listening to music and standing at his easel, it points to the artist's privileged status in society. In this sense, it is interesting that Jordaens has chosen to portray himself in the privacy of his family, rather than in a professional setting.

Norbert Schneider

 


Jacob Jordaens
The Artist and his Family
(detail)


Jacob Jordaens
The Artist and his Family
(detail)

    

     

see collection:
 

Jacob Jordaens
 
Frans Hals
 

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_____________
 

 

Frans Hals

(Encyclopaedia Britannica)

born 1581/85, Antwerp, Spanish Netherlands [now in Belgium]
died September 1, 1666, Haarlem, Neth.


great 17th-century portraitist of the Dutch bourgeoisie of Haarlem, where he spent practically all his life. Hals evolved a technique that was close to impressionism in its looseness, and he painted with increasing freedom as he grew older. The jovial spirit of his early work is typified by “The Merry Company” (c. 1616–17; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City). In middle age his portraits grew increasingly sad, revealing sometimes a sense of foreboding (e.g., “Nicolaes Hasselaer,” c. 1630–33; Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam). The paintings of his old age show best his genius for portraying character (e.g., “Man in a Slouch Hat,” c. 1660–66; State Art Collection, Kassel, Ger.).
Early life and works

Frans Hals left no written evidence about his life or his works, and only a brief outline of his biography is known. He was the son of a cloth worker from Malines (Mechelen) and of a local girl, and the family moved from Spanish-held Flanders to Haarlem in the free Netherlands by 1591 at the latest; the local town hall records give this date for the christening of Frans's younger brother Dirck, who also became a painter. Except for a brief visit to Antwerp in 1616, Hals lived all his life in Haarlem.

What he did for the first 25 or 30 years of his life is not known. The earliest indication of his activity as an artist was that about 1610 he joined the Guild of St. Luke of Haarlem, a body empowered to register artists as masters. Shortly afterward he married his first wife, Annetje Harmensdochter Abeel. She bore him two children before her death in 1615. Two years later, Hals married Lysbeth Reyniers, who was to survive her husband by some nine years. In all, Hals had 10 children, and 5 of his 8 sons became painters. None, however, was of note.

Tradition has it that Frans Hals was the pupil of Carel van Mander, a minor painter and poet who helped found a successful painting academy at Haarlem. There is no evidence either to support this claim or to refute it. From the beginning, however, Hals's work conflicted with the typical mannerisms of his presumed master. His early work is actually closer in spirit to that of Jacob Jordaens, who was an outstanding Baroque painter from Antwerp and a pupil of Peter Paul Rubens. The good humour of Hals's popular scenes recalls the joyous gatherings painted by the contemporary Dutch followers of the earthy, sensuous Italian painter Caravaggio.


Frans Hals seems, from the evidence of extant works, to have begun his career with sober portraits and with group portraits of members of the local guilds and military societies. The best of these early works—which already shows complete competence in portraiture—is a monumental painting entitled “Banquet of Officers of the Civic Guard of St. George at Haarlem” (1616; Frans Hals Museum, Haarlem, Neth.), painted with a loose brushstroke technique that is unlike anything else in Dutch art of the time. It already has a sense of life and of relationship between the figures that was then unknown in this type of subject matter. By about 1620, however, Hals had begun to introduce into his paintings the jovial spirit that characterized his early works and that portrays with accuracy and enthusiasm one important aspect traditionally ascribed to Dutch character. Many of his portraits are simply pictures of merrymakers. The portrait of Hans Wurst in “The Merry Company” shows the sitter in a tall, wide-brimmed hat, wearing a necklace made of pig's feet, herrings, and eggs. The portrait of Mr. Verdonck (c. 1627) shows the subject joyfully brandishing the jawbone of a horse. Similar in spirit are the portrait of Peeckelhaering (c. 1628–30) clenching his beer mug, “The Merry Toper” (see photograph), and two later portraits, a picture entitled “Malle Babbe” (c. 1630–33; State Museum of Berlin), which portrays an old madwoman laughing, with an owl perched on her shoulder, and a joyful picture in the Louvre Museum of a laughing, carelessly dressed Gypsy girl (1628–30). In Hals's group portraits, too, the spontaneous joie de vivre that is evident in the individual portraits is felt to a degree that revolutionizes the hitherto austere genre. One such painting is his second “Banquet of Officers of the Civic Guard of St. George at Haarlem” (1627; Frans Hals Museum), in which the figures take up postures normally employed for the expression of mystical religious rapture to celebrate their well-nourished contentment. In this painting, Hals displays his unmistakablegenius for mise-en-scène; the dramatic effects he achieves here set him apart from most other painters. His militiamen are linked in a harmonious composition that makes the viewer aware of the cohesion of their group as a whole. Each conducts a dialogue with his neighbour, and here and there one figure is made purposely to disrupt the scheme with a gesture or a glance in the viewer's direction. Nothing is happening except a meal shared by typical members of the Dutch middle class and their conversations. Yet there is a majesty to this scene that is equal to any depiction of an incident from the life of a king. This painting also hints at the sense of mysterious spirituality, which, fostered by the artist's intimate knowledge of his subjects, came with his maturity to thread its way into his absolute realism.

By the 1620s Hals had definitively evolved a technique that was close to impressionism in its looseness. Like the contemporary Spanish painter Diego Velázquez, he used colour to structure forms; and this use of colour is what sets the two artists apart from their contemporaries. Unique to Hals, however, is his use of quick, loose strokes of bright colour that suggest rather than enclose form and are highly expressive of movement and of the subjects' vitality. Most painters of the 17th century approached their paintings slowly, with preparatory drawings, a certain amount of under painting, and an elaborate finish. Although there is no certain evidence of his method, Hals seems to have started directly on the canvas and painted quickly, leaving his first spontaneous expression, which is almost an oil sketch, as the finished work. Hals continued to use this technique, which gave a striking immediacy to his perceptive portrayals of character, all his life, painting with increasing freedom as he grew older.

It has often been suggested that Frans Hals's life resembled the lives of the bon vivants he portrayed at the beginning of his career. It is true that from 1616 he began to incur claims from creditors, and he was in financial difficulties most of his life. He belonged, however, to the Haarlem St. George militia company and was a member of the Haarlem De Wijngaertranken (“Society of Rhetoricians”) in 1618–19; both of these facts are quite inconsistent with the romantic picture of dissipation that traditionally has been associated with the painter. Moreover, the stern preachers and theologians, the high-ranking officials, the surgeons, the admirals, the writers, and the respectable shopkeepers whose portraits Hals painted in great numbers were not likely to have posed for a dissolute person.


Later life and works

At any rate, the joviality began to disappear from the paintings of Hals's middle age. In the portraits painted after he reached the age of 40, the subjects seem to eye the world knowingly, with a shade of sadness in their faces. The earliest portrait that strongly shows this quality is “Man with Arms Crossed” (1622). Others follow that contain the same theme: “The Laughing Cavalier” (1624; Wallace Collection, London), “Portrait of Isaac Abrahamszoon Massa” (1626; Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto), “Pieter van den Broecke” (1633), “Nicolaes Hasselaer,” “Willem van Heythuyzen” (c. 1637–39; Royal Museum of Fine Arts, Brussels), and “Daniel van Aken Playing the Violin” (c. 1640; National Museum, Stockholm). These portraits seem to reveal a sense of foreboding; still, their mood ranges somewhere above the midpoint in the “human comedy.” The period from 1630 to 1650 was Hals's most productive. He was very popular among the staid citizens of Haarlem's middle class, and during this time he painted more than 100 single portraits and 6 group and family portraits.

Frans Hals lived to be very old, and it is in the paintings of hisold age that his genius for portraying human character is fully revealed. The last years of his life were difficult materially, and he was harassed by discouraging family problems. Although he continued to work steadily, he received markedly fewer commissions after 1650. He had, during his long career, achieved an impressive reputation; he had been honoured by many important commissions, had become in 1644 an officer of the Guild of St. Luke, and in 1649 had painted the philosopher René Descartes. Still, although some continued to value his subtle perceptions, the public had generally begun to favour a more elegant style made popular by the portrait painter Anthony Van Dyckin England. What commissions he did receive were not enough to support him, and, like his two great compatriots Rembrandt and Vermeer, he saw his possessions sold at auction for debt (1654). It was not until 1662 that his right to public assistance was recognized, and he was accorded a yearly pension by the city. In spite of this adversity the portraits of Hals's last 16 years are his masterpieces. At this point, a view of the world is revealed in his painting in which the human comedy takes a tragic turn, and something breaksin the order that had kept the reasonable man and the madman separated. His portraits, no longer tempered by laughter, seem to express a realization that simply being is enough, after a certain age, for life to impress its tragic seal.

Henceforth, Hals drew gradually closer to traditional subjects and stored away his drinking glasses and his tableware. At the same time he diminished the intensity, the vividness of his themes, a greater simplicity appeared in his compositions, and he took more and more liberty with his painting. His palette lost a good deal of its lustre. But through decades of work he had evolved a remarkably broad range of blacks and whites to choose from, and these colourswere sufficient for what he wanted to show.

From 1650 on, his subjects begin almost to look awestruck, and Hals ceases to bind his compositions into powerfully articulated human masses. Instead, he strings the solitude of each figure together on a flimsy thread, with the pattern broken only here and there by some ultimate spark of vitality. The light seems to act as a nervous system in his subjects that whips their drowsy flesh back to life, and the magic of the brushwork seems to startle their faces out of a swoonlike slumber. In the two celebrated portraits of the “Governors of the Old Men's Home at Haarlem” (both 1664; Frans Hals Museum), one a group of old men and the other of old women, his men seem overcome with drunkenness and his women entranced by the obsession of death. Here he presents us with the most extraordinary reunion of senile decay ever assembled in the history of the pictorial arts; he shows us the quavering flame of dying life. It is not known whether these portraits were comprehensible to his models. Apparently, none of the regents of the home objected to the paintings hanging in their Hall of Honour. Perhaps his subjects shared the old painter's humility in the face of destiny. Thus, the harmony in the colourful blare of the early works came to be succeeded by an art that seemed to give form to elusive nervous twitches, sudden motions, and to heartbeats accelerating, only to falter and start again. All his life Frans Hals had acted as a lucid observer of Haarlem. He painted it in the loud mirth of youth, and, reflecting in the image that he made of it his own life and declining health, here main ed its faithful companion until his death.

Old age fostered self-denial and a strict discipline in Hals, along with a new freedom in his painting. It most certainly was a painful time for the great painter. But the years had also sharpened his vision. There is no sign of religion in the evolution of his art; and it may be assumed that to Frans Hals, painting was a secular concern. Nevertheless, the loving compassion that permeated his art becomes, in his last years, something spiritual.

Like many artists whose style is unique in their own time, he left few direct followers; the closest was Adriaen Brouwer, who used Hals's techniques well to portray tavern scenes and similar subjects. Hals was for a long time regarded as a competent but limited painter whose consistent neglect of any subjects other than portraits gave him no place in the history of significant art. It was not until the 19th century that interest in his work was revived. He influenced Édouard Manet with his free style and Vincent van Gogh with his subtle range of colours. In modern times he has been appreciated for the serious and excellent realist painter that he was.

Pierre Descargues
 

 
see collection:

 

Jacob Jordaens
 
Frans Hals

 

_____________
_____________
 


 
Frans Hals
 

The Governors of the Old Men's


Almshouse at Haarlem


  

 


Frans Hals
The Lady-Governors of the Old Men's Almshouse at Haarlem
1664
Frans Halsmuseum, Haarlem

 

 

 

The governors of hospitals and almshouses were among the most important patrons of the Netherlandish group portrait. Unlike the sitters for paintings of militia companies or archers' guilds, however, these regents and regentesses, as they were called, were not members of traditional professional associations, but the honorary governing bodies of charitable institutions; men and women, usually of aristocratic background, who were appointed by the citv's ruling elite.
Since the late Middle Ages, the care of the aged in towns had become a matter of public concern. The growth in commodity relations and the partly violent expropriation of peasant farmers had led to the lat-ters' rum and consequent migration to towns, where they were exposed to a ruthless system of capitalist exploitation and extortion. Poverty and begging now increased to such an extent that traditional forms of charity, which had existed since the Middle Aees, such as those based on the ideas of Francis of Assisi or Elizabeth of Marburg, no longer sufficed. Following Luther's example, reformers began to put pressure on municipal councils to seek a long-term solution to the problem by setting aside appropriate funds to cover the cost of looking after old people. Wittenberg itself, with its edict of 1521 proclaiming the founding of a "common purse", was exemplary in this respect, and Nuremberg, with its "Rules for the Dispensation of Alms", perhaps even more so. Nuremberg even appointed public servants to care for the needy. In the Netherlands, the Spanish humanist Juan Luis Vives demanded the endowment of charitable institutions in his book "De subventione pauperum" (On Supporting the Poor).
The mass phenomenon of begging was a source of constant irritation to the burghers and ruling strata of the towns, who found beggars difficult to distinguish from the "traditional" poor. This presented a moral dilemma, since the poor had never been held responsible for their plight. In the Middle Ages, after all, poverty had been accepted as God's will. Soon, however, the ruling strata began to view persons who were suffering hardship, or who were socially marginalised, as lazy or unwilling to work. The upper classes, whose economic interests, based on the principle of wealth accumulation, had led to the widening of the gulf between rich and poor in the first place, thus tended to see the resultant misery as deriving from a congenital ignobility of character in members of the lower classes.
While early sixteenth-century charitable practice had adhered to Martin Luther's dictum "Love serves without regard to reward", increasing penetration of every sphere of human life by the capitalist principles of wages and profit soon undermined ideals of chanty and encouraged demands for the poor to be detained in institutions which would serve their correction. The poorhouses were little more than prisons - sometimes even called so - and were organised according to the principle of centralised manufacture. Their inmates were forced into gruellingly hard labour in return for a mere pittance. Some of the worst working conditions were found in the rasp-houses, where dyeing powder was extracted by rasping logwood. The exploitation of this cheap labour force led to grand profits. Orphanages, or foundling hospitals, and sometimes mental asylums, each with their own regents, or governing bodies, were often found attached to the workhouses. However, there were also charitable institutions offering asylum to those who had fallen on hard times. These included homes of refuge for the ill and aged.
In the sixteenth century, it had been customary for works of art to show the poor in the company of their benefactors - in The Seven Works of Charity, for example, or in the scenes accompanying The Last Judgement. In seventeenth-century Netherlandish portraits of the governors of charitable institutions, however, human misery itself, with few exceptions, was evidently subject to taboo, or at least was banished from sight; an invisible barrier thus existed between "selflessly" or "generously" acting dignitaries on the one hand, and the inmates of institutions on the other. The governors remained aloof, avoiding prejudice to their social status which might derive from being seen in company with those whom the age had already branded as virtually criminal: the company, in other words, of persons entrusted into their care. The most they could bear was the presence of a servant, or a wardress; and even then, the servant's lower status was clearly indicated by their being shown bareheaded. The governors would usually sit for their portraits at one of their regular meetings, and they would have themselves shown keeping the minutes, or counting money.
Frans Hals's pair of large-format group portraits of The Governors and Lady-Governors of the Old Men's Almshouse at Haarlem, painted in 1664, were among the last works commissioned from him. Indeed, he had now become a pensioner himself, receiving, during the last four years of his life, an annual stipend of 200 guilders, awarded by the municipal authorities. Hals executed the portraits in the manner outlined above, at the same time modifying the dominant portrait type: the "regents and regentesses" were no longer placed in a narrative context, depicted carrying out certain typical forms of activity. This had been a compositional achievement of the first half of the century, to whose attainment Hals himself had greatly contributed. Here, however, he showed the sitters in full-face view: plain, rather formal figures, without the faintest hint of swagger. In deference to the sitters' wishes, each of whom paid the artist individually, Hals retained the principle of showing their faces separately. On the other hand, a new quality now entered his work via an unconventional, pre-Impressionist mode of painting: the direct, spontaneous application of paint to the ground ("alia prima"), with its tendency to favour more open forms.

 


Frans Hals
The Lady-Governors of the Old Men's
Almshouse at Haarlem
(detail)


Frans Hals
The Lady-Governors of the Old Men's
Almshouse at Haarlem
(detail)

 

     
Scholars have frequently suggested that these structural innovations - appearing as they do to anticipate the (aesthetic) rebelliousness of a later avant-garde — must be seen in conjunction with Hals's allegedly critical attitude towards the governors and lady-governors of the almshouse. It has been said, for example, that the governor whose hat sits askew was given to drunkenness, or to the abuse of drugs, and that Hals wanted to poke fun at him. However, it is demonstrable that the man was actually suffering from facial palsy. It is therefore misleading to indulge this late nineteenth-century cliche by attributing to Hals the motive of revenge for ill-treatment he is reputed to have endured at the hands of his patrons.
As usual in genre portraits of "regents and regentesses", the figures in both paintings are shown against a dark background. On the wall behind the lady-governors is a landscape painting. This probably represents a "paysage moralise", a morally significant landscape, whose purpose is to provide a "clavis interpretandi", a key to understanding the work: the narrow path winding upwards into the mountains may be an allusion to the "path of virtue", a symbol often encountered in Renaissance art and "emblem books". If so, it may indicate what kind of behaviour was expected of the inmates by the lady-governors.

Norbert Schneider

 

                   


Frans Hals
The Governors of the Old Men's Almshouse at Haarlem
1664
Frans Halsmuseum, Haarlem

   

see collection:


Jacob Jordaens


Frans Hals

 

 

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