Frans Hals was born in Antwerp, but his family emigrated because their native city was conquered by the Spanish. They settled in Haarlem, where Hals spent the rest of his life. There, religious painting was almost banned for being considered “too Catholic” issue that was associated with the Spanish invasion of the country. Therefore, the artist did not have much choice but to paint portraits, which constitute the entirety of his work.
Hals used loose and spontaneous brushstrokes. He didn’t even bother to make preliminary sketches or studies. He preferred to paint directly on the canvas with a technique called alla prima: instead of paint layers one after another with more detail each time, he preferred to paint small parts of the canvas fully detailed in just one time.
In his works, Hals portraits wealthy citizens, it is, those who could pay for his work. However, he often would paint motifs of his own choice, like boys playing instruments, such as A boy with a violin. These portraits are a curious for one reason: most of the characters appear with a contorted expression. In today’s work, the boy seems to play for himself, completely abstracted from the outside world in a kind of ecstasy. The use of diamond position canvas let us to know that this work was not commissioned to the artist, as this would not have been accepted as traditional. To the left of the canvas, we can see the monogram with the initials of the painter, a way to show the pride the artist had for this painting.
Hals’s work was ignored until almost mid-nineteenth century, when he began to be recognized and valued. His expertise is now compared to Rembrandt’s, his contemporary and rival in art.