Currently, the RKD – Netherlands Institute for Art History is working on the publication of a digital monograph and catalogue raisonné of the paintings of Frans Hals, written by Hals expert Prof. Claus Grimm. The RKD Study Frans Hals and his workshop will be published in autumn 2023.
Frans Hals (1582/83-1666) is one of the most important Dutch masters of the seventeenth century. The Haarlem painter became well known for his striking portraits, colourful genre paintings and large civic guard portraits, but also through the enormous influence he had on nineteenth- and early twentieth-century artists as well as on the development of modern painting in general. The largest collection of his paintings is held by the Frans Hals Museum in Haarlem.
Compared to Rembrandt and Vermeer, Frans Hals has received less attention over the past decades, even though he has been the subject of numerous articles, catalogues, exhibitions and research projects. The first catalogues of his oeuvre were compiled by well-known art historians such as Wilhelm Bode (1883), RKD-founder Cornelis Hofstede de Groot (1910) and Wilhelm Valentiner (1921). These works, however, were superseded by the comprehensive catalogue raisonné published by Seymour Slive in 1970-1974. His three-volume catalogue contains a critical analysis of each painting by or associated with Frans Hals, including bibliographical references and provenance information. Many publications about Hals’s work have since seen the light. New possibilities and techniques for art-historical and technical research have also become available, meaning that it is now time to revise Slive’s catalogue.
Frans Hals’s oeuvre
Over time, the size of Hals’s accepted oeuvre has decreased strongly. In 1910, Hofstede de Groot listed more than 400 works, but this number rapidly reduced in following decades. By 1974, Slive recorded a total of 222 surviving authentic paintings by the master and at least 20 lost pieces, whereas Claus Grimm, in his 1989 monograph, listed only 145. The basis of these attributions was a stylistic analysis which assigned works either to Hals himself or to another master. However, this approach has been abandoned , since in many cases close comparison of small details reveals the involvement of multiple hands.
In the forthcoming RKD Study Frans Hals and his workshop, Claus Grimm presents his catalogue raisonné of all paintings made by Frans Hals and his studio assistants, including those whose attribution is less straightforward. The study also devotes extensive attention to Grimm’s theory about Hals’s workshop and his collaboration with other artists. Thanks to new insights gained by technical research, as well as new possibilities for comparing and analysing works of art in minute detail – using high-resolution digital photographs – Grimm now distinguishes which paintings, or parts of paintings, were executed by Hals himself and which were made by studio assistants. A large number of details will be illustrated in the RKD Study, providing insight into Grimm’s arguments for accepting or rejecting attributions. The project will also ensure that hundreds of images of Frans Hals’s paintings will be included in RKD images, resulting in integral online access to documentation, literature, provenance history and technical documentation through RKD Explore.
Editorial team and advisory board
The publication is being developed as a collaboration between the RKD and the Frans Hals Museum. Through its Frans Hals Research Center, the museum offers a platform for research into Frans Hals’s workshop practice. The production of a digital monograph and catalogue raisonné on this scale requires considerable effort and is an important project for the RKD. The editorial team consists of project manager Ellis Dullaart, editor Nadja Garthoff and advising editor Norbert Middelkoop (Frans Hals Museum). The editorial team can additionally call upon the advisory board, consisting of prof. Frans Grijzenhout (University of Amsterdam), Bart Cornelis (National Gallery London) and Friso Lammertse (Rijksmuseum). The RKD Study Frans Hals and his workshop will be published in autumn 2023.