Frans Hals: Governers of the Old Men's Alm's House, Haarlem
Andrew Graham-Dixon has been given 3 hours to talk about the art of the Low Countries. It's not long enough. Last night we had the entire Golden Age of Dutch painting. Hals, Rembrandt and Vermeer flew by. Last week we had the whole of Flemish art from Van Eyck to Rubens.
Any Dutch art is better than no Dutch art, but Rembrandt, for example, is just too big a figure to be dealt with in ten minutes. We got the Night Watch, Julius Civilis and some portraits, but no Biblical paintings, nudes, landscapes or etchings. Graham-Dixon did a grand job placing the art in its historical and social context, but I found myself fretting at time wasted on sequences of him cycling through bulb fields or eating at canal-side restaurants. Yes, Holland is very pretty, but the paintings are what we're here for.
It was good to be reminded just what a wonderful painter Hals is. The 19th century valued him as highly as Rembrandt, then his stock fell. It's time he was reinstated.
A sobering thought; Hals, Rembrandt and Vermeer all died skint.