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Frans Hals
c. 1580-1666

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Frans Hals was a Dutch painter, one of the greatest masters of the art of portraiture, much admired for his brilliant lighting effects and the freedom of his brushwork.

The Netherlands 1937. Frans Hals. "Laughing Boy".

Hals was born in Antwerp, Belgium, and was probably trained by the Dutch painter Karel van Mander. He spent all of his adult life in Haarlem, finding patronage with the wealthy middle-class merchants and burghers of his time. 

Throughout his life he received important commissions for group portraits of the officers and corporations of Haarlem; towards the end of his life he was granted a small pension by the city. He died on September 1, 1666, in what is now the Frans Hals Museum in Haarlem.  

  • The Netherlands 1937.  "Laughing Boy".  The stamp is a semi-postal and from a set of 5 stamps, issued for the benefit of children's social welfare. 

German Democratic Republic 1980. Frans Hals. Souvenir Sheet. Self-Portrait.
  • German Democratic Republic 1980.  Commemorative issue at the occasion of the 400th birth anniversary of Frans Hals.  Self Portrait. 

  • GDR 1980.  "Laughing Boy with Flute".

  • GDR 1980.  "Portrait of a Man in Yellow Brown Coat".

  • GDR 1980.  "The Mulatto".

  • GDR 1980.  "Portrait of a Young Man in Black Coat".


German Democratic Republic 1980. Frans Hals. "Laughint Boy with Flute". German Democratic Repubic 1980. Frans Hals. "Portrait of a Man in Yellow Brown Coat".
German Democratic Republic 1980. Frans Hals. "The Mulatto". German Democratic Republic 1980. Frans Hals. "Portrait of a Young Man in Black Coat".

1937 was the tercentennial of Descartes' writing of "Discours de la methode" (Discourse on method) and it was decided to issue a stamp and organize a celebration during the exhibition of 1937. 

The stamp designer put on the stamp "Discours sur la methode" which is also grammatically correct in French, but is *not* the title chosen by Descartes. As this was discovered just before the anticipated date of release (May 24), there was a high risk that some faulty stamps would not be recovered. In order to discourage speculation, it was decided to print about the same numbers of both stamps (4.4 millons for the faulty one and 5 millions for the correct one). The latter was issued on June 10. 

Frans Hals. Detail of the painting of Descartes by Frans Hals.

Detail of the original painting of Descartes by 
Frans Hals, belonging to the Louvre Museum, Paris. 

France 1937. Frans Hals. Descarte-Portrait "Discours de la Méthode".

"Discours sur la Méthode"
erroneous stamp issued May 24, 1937 

France 1937. Frans Hals. Erroneous stamp. Descarte-Portrait "Discours sur la Méthode".

"Discours de la Méthode",
correct stamp issued June 10, 1937

The above stamps are scanned directly from the  French Yvert & Tellier Catalogue. A similar stamp was issued by France in 1996, depicting a portrait directly after the painting shown on the left. 

Most of the philatelists were interested by the faulty one so the stock is now more important and the catalogue value a little bit lower than for the correct one.  (Information about the Descartes-stamp provided by Pierre Courtiade, Paris). Click here to read a short biography about Descartes, and an account of the erroneous stamp vs. the correct one. The link will open in the same window.   

Frans Hals. Postcard from Paris to Denmark, franked with the French 1937-stamp of Descartes.

USSR 1971. Frans Hals. "Portrait of a Man with Gloves".

Liechtenstein1954. Frans Hals. Portrait of "Willem von Heythuysen, Mayor of Haarlem".

Although his portraits appear spontaneous and uncalculated, Hals was an expert technician, and his studies are always skillfully composed. His talent is particularly evident in his nine group portraits of the burgher guards and corporations of Haarlem, all of which are now in the Frans Hals Museum.In these group portraits Hals demonstrates his ability to catch each man in a characteristic pose, thus giving the group an air of informality and naturalness; each individual is clearly portrayed, yet all are linked in a well-balanced pattern in line and colour. 

  • Russia 1971.  "Portrait of a Man with Gloves".  Belongs to the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg (Russia). 

  • Liechtenstein 1954. "Portrait of Willem von Heythuysen, Mayor of Haarlem". Overprint of the 1951-stamp 60/20. 

In all his portraits Hals achieved an air of complete spontaneity; his subjects give the impression of being caught in a fleeting, but characteristic, pose and expression. The gay mood of the early work The Laughing Cavalier (1624, Wallace Collection, London), the subject's apparently momentary smile and stance, demonstrate Hals's ability to attain the immediacy of a sketch by the use of rapid, spontaneous brushstrokes. 

The broad brushstroke is characteristic of his work and adds a robust and lively quality to his portraits, particularly to the genre or character pieces he painted from 1620 to 1640. One of the most famous, the portrait of the gypsy tavern girl La bohémienne (1630, Louvre, Paris) owes its gaiety and brightness to two other painting techniques Hals employed: fully illuminating the figures with direct light, and blending the brilliant colours directly on the canvas. 

  • State of Upper Yafa (South Arabia) 1967.  Detail of the painting "Singing Boy with Flute". 

State of Upper Yafa (Aouth Arabia) 1967. Frans Hals. Detail of the painting "Singing Boy  with Flute".

The Netherlands 1962. Frans Hals. "Two Guild Brothers".

As his style matured, Hals replaced the bright colours of his earliest canvases with a more monochromatic treatment. In his last group portrait, Regentesses of the Old Men's Almshouse (1664, Frans Hals Museum), he limited his palette to sombre shades of black and grey, relying on broader and more vigorous brushstrokes to accentuate light and tonal values. 

This work is considered his masterpiece, because the style lends a greater austerity and depth to the study, while simultaneously fusing the group into a natural and harmonious pattern. In this group portrait, Hals achieves a new dignity and feeling for the character of the subjects that is absent from his earlier works, yet retains a spontaneous effect by the dexterity and facility of his brushwork. 

This painting "The Happy Boozer" was issued by the Arab Emirate of Sharjah in the long set of paintings honouring the Olympic Games at Sapporo 1972.  

Nothing much is known about the painting as such; it is a typical early work of Frans Hals with its bright colours and happy mood that reflects also the artist's own nature. 

The Gypsy Girl (far right) shows again Frans Hals' exquisite talent for portraiture, and for accentuating the small details of a human face. One could meet this young and happy woman with her smiling eyes anywhere, even today, 350 years after the artist's death.  

  • Sharjah 1972.  Frans Hals "The Happy Boozer". 
  • Kingdom of Yemen 1967. Frans Hals "The Gypsy Girl". Imperforate. 

Sharjah 1972. Frans Hals. "The Happy Boozer".

Kingdom of Yemen 1967. Frans Hals. "Gypsy Woman". Imperforate.

The two Dutch stamps on this page are the only works by Frans Hals that were issued on stamps by The Netherlands. 

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