HALS, Frans
(b. 1580, Antwerpen, d. 1666, Haarlem)

The Merry Drinker

Oil on canvas, 81 x 66,5 cm
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

The Merry Drinker is painted in a bright, blond tonality which anticipates nineteenth-century Impressionism in its most brilliant manifestations. Manet must have been particularly impressed by this painting. The picture also shows Hals supreme mastery of one of the principal preoccupations of Baroque artists: the rendering of instantaneous emotion and movement. No seventeenth-century artist surpassed Hals in this fields. The realism and illusionism of Caravaggio and his followers look forced compared to Hals, and Rubens and van Dyck do not convey a comparable intensity in the suggestion of a fleeting instant packed with vitality. Hals's vigorous concentration on this was more than an ordinary rendering of reality. He selected moments when human nature reveals all its vital energy. Most frequently he shows the instant when the joy of life is at its highest.

Suggested listening (streaming mp3, 5 minutes):
Otto Nicolai: Die lustigen Weiber von Windsor (The Merry Wives of Windsor), drinking song