Frans Hals. Banquet of the officers of the St Hadrian civic guard, 1627. Frans Hals Museum, Haarlem. Source: Web Gallery of Art.

study days

Frans Hals: Transforming the Portrait

  • Thursday 5 October 2023
  • Lettsom House, First Floor, 11 Chandos Street, London W1G 9EB (NB: There is no lift in this building)
  • Lecturer: Clare Ford-Wille

Frans Hals was one of the most sought after painters of his generation. He used a style of portrait which was highly unusual for his time. His sitters were shown as relaxed and lively, often smiling and even laughing, this combined with his extraordinary brushwork, expressive colour and use of light created portraits that breathe with life. As well as individual portraits, he painted militia companies, regents and regentesses of almshouses, marriage portraits and amusing or moralising paintings of everyday life. His work was not only admired during his lifetime but by later artists including Manet and Van Gogh. This day coincides with the National Gallery exhibition which is the first major retrospective of his work in more than thirty years.

Programme for the day

  1. Haarlem as a Centre of Art at the Beginning of the Seventeeth Century.  One of the most important and earliest centres of art at the beginning of the seventeenth century and a new age of Protestantism, what would have been of importance to the young Frans Hals?
  1. Early Life and Work of Frans Hals: His Flemish Origins and His Earliest Portraits and Genre Paintings, 1611-1624. The lecture will explore Hals’s origins, training and early very innovative portraits and genre subjects.
  1. From Militia Company to Regents and Regentesses 1624-1645. An exploration of Hals’s early maturity with the outstanding and lively group portraits and the beginnings of changes in his work during the middle of the century.
  1. The Later Portraits 1645-1666. Hals painted into old age with techniques and constant inventiveness which would influence nineteenth-century French artists.


Clare Ford-Wille is an independent art historian, well known to members for her courses at Birkbeck and Morley College as well as a lecturer at the National Gallery, the V&A and The Arts Society groups in Britain and Europe. She has led many tours abroad. Clare is a Vice President of The London Art History Society.

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