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Toledo Museum of Art (TMA) Acquires Frans Hals Painting: Family Portrait in a Landscape

The Toledo Museum of Art (TMA) has acquired a stunning example of portraiture by Dutch Master Frans Hals with the purchase of Family Portrait in a Landscape. Scholar Gregory Martin referred to the painting as ―an extraordinary picture for the 1620s that underlines Hals’s inventive genius. Nothing like it—for breadth and relaxed tone—had been painted in the Netherlands before

Frans Hals (Dutch, 1582/83-1666) Family Portrait in a Landscape. Oil on canvas, early 1620s. Purchased with funds from the Bequest of Florence Scott Libbey in Memory of her Father, Maurice A. Scott, the Libbey Endowment, Gift of Edward Drummond Libbey, the Bequest of Jill Ford Murray, and other funds, 2011.80

Family Portrait in a Landscape (early 1620s) is a large work (60 x 64 3⁄4 inches/151 x 163.6 cm) that will take its place in the Great Gallery near Rubens’s The Crowning of St. Catherine and Guercino’s Lot and His Daughters, the Museum’s most recent Old Master acquisition, which came into the collection in 2009.

About Frans Hals and Family Portrait in a Landscape Frans Hals (1582/83–1666), one of the three giants of 17th-century Dutch painting along with Rembrandt and Vermeer, was also one of the greatest portraitists of all time. Renowned for his dashing single figures of the Dutch middle class, often paired with a rendering of the sitter’s spouse, Hals also painted a number of group portraits, most famously of Haarlem civic guard companies. On at least four occasions he took up the challenge of family portraiture. The Museum’s example, the earliest, originally depicted a fashionably dressed couple with their nine children, all interacting affectionately through glance and gesture. Just a year or two after the painting’s completion, a 10th child was born. The figure of this infant girl, seated in the lower left of the composition, was added in 1628 by a different painter from Haarlem, Salomon de Bray (1597–1664), in a style noticeably different from that of Hals. Why Hals was not the one hired to paint the portrait of this most recent addition to the family remains a mystery. At some point before the end of the 18th century the canvas was cut vertically at the right. This segment showing three children with a goat cart exists today in the museum in Brussels (see illustration). The identity of the family in Hals’s painting has only quite recently been ascertained through archival research by a Hals scholar. The parents are cloth merchant Gijsbert Claesz. van Campen and Maria Jorisdr., who were married in 1604. One very plausible supposition is that the painting was commissioned by them on the occasion of their 20th wedding anniversary. The genius of Hals is best encountered in his mastery of compositional structure, in his ability to capture a natural sense of vitality, and especially in his seemingly spontaneous, bravura brushwork (look, for example, at the glove held by the father or the crimson sleeve of the eldest daughter). As a contemporary of the artist wrote , Hals was “a marvel at painting portraits which appear very rough and bold, nimbly touched and well composed, pleasing and ingenious, and when seen from a distance seem to lack nothing but life itself.”

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