FRANS HALS MUSEUM – still life in the old men’s home

The old men who lived here in Frans Hals's time wouldn't have eaten like this.


I’m a big fan of the Haarlem School of still life painting, as exemplified by Willem Claesz Heda and Pieter Claesz. Their work is on show in Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum, but also in the lovely town of Haarlem, in the Frans Hals Museum.

I’ll write more about Haarlem and Frans Hals in future posts, but this spring there are other still life attractions in the museum, thanks to some nice work by stylist Ruud van der Neut, and the floral arrangers of the Friends of the Frans Hals Museum. All are to be congratulated.

The hofje (courtyard) of the Frans Hals Museum, formerly housing old men.

Some still life paintings are full of symbolism, skulls and hourglasses reminding us of life’s fleeting nature and so on.

Maybe I’m missing something in Heda and Claesz’s depictions of goblets of wine, peeled lemons and platters of oysters. Maybe however, they just liked looking at food and drink. As I do.

Still life by Willem Claesz Heda, 1594-about 1680.

What appeals to me is first the extraordinary technique as they show off their control over reflections and their ability to use oil paint on canvas to render the different surfaces of linen, glass, pewter and silver. And I love the elegance of the arrangements.

Stylist Ruud van der Nuit has been given a table in the museum to strut his stuff laying out a banquet, surrounded by Frans Hals’ paintings of well-to-do Haarlem burgers tucking into some serious meals. I liked Ruud’s work too.

Banquet designed by Ruud van der Nuit.

Meanwhile, to celebrate spring, the Friends of the Frans Hals Museum have installed vases of flowers in the galleries. They’ve gone to a lot of trouble, to great effect.

Haarlem is about a 20 minute train ride from Amsterdam Central Station. Entry to the Frans Hals Museum costs EUR13.

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Filed under Art, Holland

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