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Inspiration and Emulation

Selected Studies on Rubens and Rembrandt

Toshiharu Nakamura

Edited By Kayo Hirakawa

This book discusses an important theme in art history - artistic emulation that emphasizes the exchange between Flemish and Dutch art in the seventeenth century. Since the Middle Ages, copying has been perceived as an important step in artistic training. Originality, on the other hand, has been considered an indispensable hallmark of great works of art since the Renaissance. Therefore, in the seventeenth century, ambitious painters frequently drew inspiration from other artists’ works, attempting to surpass them in various aspects of aesthetic appeal. Drawing on this perspective, this book considers the problems of imitation, emulation, and artistic rivalry in seventeenth-century Netherlandish art. It primarily focuses on Rubens and Rembrandt, but also discusses other masters like van Dyck and Hals. It particularly results in expanding the extant body of knowledge in relation to Rubens’s influence on Rembrandt and Hals. Moreover, it reveals certain new aspects of Rubens and Rembrandt as work-shop masters - collaboration with specialists, use of oil sketches, and teaching methods to pupils for example.

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Frans Hals’s Painterly Style and His Tronie-like Genre Paintings: An Examination of the Influence of Flemish Head Studies


1. Frans Hals’s Loose Painterly Manner and His Journey to Antwerp in 1616

In his book Les maîtres d’autrefois (1876), which contributed greatly to the international fame of Frans Hals, Eugène Fromentin described the painter’s touch as follows:

The pigment is of the rarest; thick flowing colours, firm and full, thickly or thinly laid according to need; the execution is free, wise, supple, daring, never wild, never insignificant.1

In fact, Hals’s contemporaries had already acknowledged his virtuoso painterly style, which gave life-like effects to the figures he painted. In 1648, Theodorus Schrevelius wrote,

His paintings are imbued with such force and vitality that he seems to surpass nature herself with his brush. This is seen in all his portraits…which are colored in such a way that they seem to live and breathe.2

How could Hals successfully develop such a virtuoso style? The theoretical framework and the influence of contemporary Flemish paintings, especially oil sketches are regarded as important stimuli for the development of Hals’s painterly style. His teacher, Karel ← 217 | 218 → van Mander made a distinction between two painting protocols—the net (neat) and the rouw (rough)—in his Schilder-Boeck (1604).3 Hals chose the latter, which was believed to be more difficult. Van Mander named Titian’s late works as representative examples of the rough manner.4 It is, however, unlikely that Hals, who did not go to Italy, saw the Venetian master’s paintings; therefore, it...

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