This year starts with one of the best art shows in 2024, the Frans Hals Exhibition at the Rijksmuseum. After its debut at the National Gallery in London, the exhibition travels to Amsterdam, where it will be on display until June 2024. During the last few years, Rijksmuseum organised a few exhibitions dedicated to Dutch Golden Age masters (All the Rembrandts in 2019 and Vermeer in 2023). It’s continuing its series of fantastic 17th-century masters exhibitions with one of its stars, Frans Hals.

Frans Hals Exhibition at the Rijksmuseum

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The exhibition is organised in partnership with the National Gallery in London, Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, Gemäldegalerie in Berlin, and a special collaboration with Frans Hals Museum in Haarlem. The National Gallery hosted the exhibition in the autumn of 2023, and it will travel to Berlin after the one in Amsterdam.

The Frans Hals exhibition at the Rijksmuseum will have a thematic approach. Each exhibition room will be dedicated to a different topic, from laughter to group portraits. This approach gives such a terrific insight into this artist’s unique oeuvre.

I visited the Frans Hals exhibition at the National Gallery in London in November 2023 and loved the way it presented the unique work of that painter. It’s fascinating to see Frans Hals’ portraits of the same models, like, for example, Isaac Massa, displayed next to each other and follow these people through their lives. The exhibition also offers a fantastic insight into his style development. If you are interested in that great 17th-century painter, the Frans Hals exhibition at the Rijksmuseum is a wonderful way to learn more about him.

Around 50 Frans Hals paintings will be displayed at this first-ever exhibition dedicated to the famous Dutch painter in the Rijksmuseum. With around 200 of his known artworks that’s a quarter of his ouevre.

Read more: 18 Best exhibitions in European museums in 2024

Who was Frans Hals

Frans Hals is one of the most prominent Dutch Golden Age painters and one of the most innovative artists of the 17th century. Born in 1582/1584 in Antwerp, he died in Haarlem in 1666. His family fled Antwerp after the city had fallen under siege by the Spanish Habsburg troops and moved to the Netherlands. He became a city’s Guild of Saint Luke member in 1610 and a professional painter. Besides painting, Frans Hals also worked as an art dealer and a restorer. He had a large workshop with many students in Haarlem.

Hals is a unique 17th-century painter because of the way he captured the emotions of the people he portrayed. They are bursting with life, often smiling and laughing at their portraits, which was quite rare during that time.

Because of his style and a great talent for capturing the personalities of his models, Frans Hals became a popular painter among the wealthy citizens of Haarlem, The Hague, Amsterdam and other Dutch towns.

He’s renowned for his vivid brushstrokes and is considered a forerunner of Impressionism. Many Impressionist painters were influenced by his work. Even Vincent van Gogh praised him in a few of his letters to his brother Theo.

Five of Frans Hals’ sons became painters as well. Although none of them reached their father’s fame.

TIP: Take the Rijksmuseum virtual tour around Frans Hals’ most famous artworks on this link.

Frans Hals’ paintings

Frans Hals is mainly known for his portraits of wealthy citizens and group portraits of militia companies. We don’t have any landscape or still lifes paintings attributed to him, and he probably didn’t make any.

Although he has shown the Dutch Golden Age tendencies with his focus on realism, he had a unique style. His loose brushstrokes make paintings vivid and filled with energy and excitement. Frans Hals had a unique ability to make portrayed people look alive in his paintings. He showed their personalities and managed to capture a moment in his artworks.

Frans Hals also made several wedding portraits, which were popular in the Netherlands during the 17th century. It was common during that time to show husband and wife in separate frames. However, one of the most intimate wedding portraits of the Dutch Golden Age is Frans Hals’ “Couple in a garden: Wedding portrait of Isaac Abrahamsz. Massa and Beatrix van der Laan” (c. 1622). In it, he showed a couple sitting together within the same frame. That way, Hals captured an intimate connection between them with several symbols of love included.

Read more: Best museums in Amsterdam & Tips for visiting them

Frans Hals exhibition at the Rijksmuseum highlights

Although the Frans Hals exhibitions at the Rijksmuseum will be filled with beautiful artworks by that artist, here are some highlights you shouldn’t miss.

The Laughing Cavalier (1624)

On display in the Netherlands for the first time in 150 years, the Wallace Collection loaned that fascinating painting for this exhibition. From the man’s smile to the fascinating details on his clothes, this painting makes a true 17th-century masterpiece.

The Banquet of the Officers of the St. George Militia Company (1616)

Loaned for the first time from Frans Hals Museum in Haarlem, exclusively to the Rijksmuseum exhibition, this group portrait shows the essence of the artist’s work. Besides this one, Frans Hals Museum loaned three more paintings for this show.

Malle Babbe (c. 1633-1635)

This painting is sometimes referred to as “The Witch of Haarlem“. It was considered Frans Hals painted a tronie, showing a stereotypical witch figure. However, the researchers discovered it was a portrait of a real painter’s contemporary from Haarlem, probably someone who was an alcoholic or had a mental disease.

Learn more about Frans Hals in Haarlem

After visiting the Frans Hals Exhibition at the Rijksmuseum, learn more about this artist in his hometown, Haarlem. Located only 20 minutes by train from Amsterdam, this charming Dutch town will reveal more secrets about this artist.

Frans Hals loved Haarlem and insisted that his clients visit him there. He didn’t want to leave the city to travel to his clients. One of his group portraits displayed at the Rijksmuseum, “De Meagre Company“, had to be finished by Pieter Codde because Frans Hals refused to paint it in Amsterdam.

You can start your visit to Haarlem with a visit to Frans Hals Museum. Continue to Grote Kerk, located on its main square, where Frans Hals was buried. You can also see the Frans Hals statue at Florapark and a statue of Malle Babbe in the city centre.

Read more: Haarlem Travel Guide – Things to do in Haarlem

Where to see Frans Hals’ artworks

Although Frans Hals’ paintings are located in museums and private collections across the world, if you’re interested in exploring his artwork, these are museums you should visit:

Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam – You’ll find several Frans Hals paintings among the Rijksmuseum highlights. The most fascinating are “Portrait of a Couple in a Garden“, “Merry Drinker“, “The Meagre Company“, and “Portrait of Lucas de Clercq“.

Frans Hals Museum, Haarlem – The museum dedicated to the life and work of a famous painter is home mainly to his stunning large group portraits.

The Louvre Museum, Paris – Several Frans Hals artworks are located at the Louvre Museum in Paris. “Jester with a Lutte“ and “Gypsy Girl“ are the most famous among them.

Wallace Collection, London – This charming museum is home to one of the most famous Frans Hals’ artworks, the “Laughing Cavalier“. The painting had never left the collection until the Frans Hals exhibition in autumn 2023 was organised at the National Gallery in London.

The National Gallery, London – The museum has ten Frans Hals paintings in its collection. Those are primarily individual portraits, although its highlight is a group portrait called “A Family Group in a Landscape “.

Tips for visiting Frans Hals exhibition at the Rijksmuseum

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Frans Hals Exhibition at the Rijksmuseum is one of the best art events in 2024. If you’ll be in Amsterdam in spring 2024, be sure to visit it.

Did you had a chance to visit this exhibition? What was your favourite painting? Let me know in the comments!

Check out more beautiful Amsterdam museums:

Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam

Rembrandt House Museum

Moco Museum in Amsterdam

Photos were taken during the Frans Hals exhibition at the National Gallery in London.

Cover photo: Frans Hals, A Militiaman holding a Berkemeyer, known as the ‘Merry Drinker’, c. 1629. Photo: Rijksmuseum/ Kelly Schenk.