Anna McNay

Review of Frans Hals at the National Gallery, London


Frans Hals

The National Gallery, London
30 September 2023 – 21 January 2024

Who doesn’t know those twinkling brown eyes and that cheeky, smiling moustache of the cocksure, lavishly clad man with the huge hat (the bigger the hat, the greater the importance), a long-standing favourite on the walls of Hertford House, home to the Wallace Collection? Frans Hals’s The Laughing Cavalier (1624) was purchased by the Marquess of Hertford at an auction in Paris in 1865 for 51,000 francs – 11 times the price paid by the previous owner. In securing the painting for his collection, he beat the National Gallery and James de Rothschild. The acquisition was central to the rediscovery of the Dutch Golden Age painter Hals (1581/5-1666) and yet remains the sole work for which he is widely known, despite never having left the walls of the Wallace Collection – that is, until now. Currently, it is starring in an exhibition at the National Gallery, London, curated in partnership with the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, and the Gemäldegalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin (to which it will tour), with the special collaboration of the Frans Hals Museum, Haarlem.

Read the full review here