Five of the eight sons of the famous Dutch painter Frans Hals also became painters. Our Nicolaes or Claes was the youngest of these.
Under a dramatically painted dark sky farmers, simple folks and rich people turn to the ice. At right two of them are playing kolf, others are ice skating or enjoying a ride in a sledge.
About Nicolaes (or Claes) Hals
Haarlem 1628 – 1686 Haarlem
Son of Frans Hals and his second wife Lysbeth Reyniersdr.
Painter of landscapes and of genre scenes.
In his landscapes he was clearly influenced by Jacob van Ruisdael
(1599 – 1677).
His interior scenes are influenced by Jan Miense Molenaer and by Judith Leyster, both students of his father, Frans Hals.
Five of the eight sons of Frans Hals (1582/83 – 1666) became painters, after having studied under their father :
- Harmen (1611 – 1669) genre and portrait painter
- Frans II (1618 – 1669) genre and portrait painter
- Jan (circa 1620 – 1674) portrait painter
- Reynier (1627 - 1672) genre painter
- Nicolaes (1628 – 1686) landscape and genre painter
In 1655 Nicolaes married a rich widow, Jenneke Hendricksdr. van der Horst; they did not have any children.
About 17th century winters
North Western Europe went through a small ice age from circa 1550
until the middle of the 19th century.
The first very strong winter had been in 1564/1565.
Two thirds of the winters in the Low Countries between 1600 and 1700 were very cold with long periods of frost and snow. This explains the popularity of ice skating and its representation in paintings and engravings during the 17th century. January 1684 must have been the coldest month of that century.
We should also mention that a quarter to a third of the 17th century winters have been mild, especially in the second quarter of the century.
About the attraction of painted winter scenes
The harsh weather conditions during winter change the light, the air, the atmosphere, the colours. This must have been a first challenge for painters.
Fifty five percent of Holland lays under the level of the sea. The country was/is constantly fighting to evacuate water from the land: there are numerous rivers and canals. Frozen water ways offered people the chance to have a good time on the ice: a mix of people from all social layers would go for a stroll on the ice, others would go ice skating, go for a ride in a sledge, play kolf (the popular forerunner of ice hockey).
Merchants would set up shops on the ice. People could eat and drink in a typically Dutch “koek-en-zopie” tent. This term refers to the food and beverage that one could and still can buy while ice skating. Its best known drink was “zopie”; that was made of “bock”, which was a strong German lager, mingled with rum.
Daily life was partly transposed onto the ice: goods and passengers were ferried by sledge, instead of by carts or boats; the water supply would be ensured by a makeshift well that had been cut into the ice.
It is clear that the atmospheric conditions, the pleasures and businesses of winter formed a very attractive subject for the painters, for their clients and still do for our clients.
Painted winter landscapes had initiated in Flanders with Pieter Brueghel the Elder in the third quarter of the 16th century. Following the iconoclast riots and the Sack of Antwerp in 1576 Flemish Protestants fled in large numbers to Holland. Amongst them many painters. Hans Bol and David Vinckboons brought this new subject to Holland, especially to Amsterdam.
Seventeenth century Dutch winter landscapes can be divided in several categories according to the emphasis stressed by the painter: did he go for anecdotic, Flemish-inspired genre scenes or for a naturalistic, atmospheric, sober, sometimes monochrome approach or of course for a blend of both.
To the first group belong Hendrick and Barent Avercamp, Adriaen van de Venne, Arent Arentsz., nicknamed Cabel, the early Jan van Goyen, Isaak van Ostade, Jan and Abraham Beerstraaten, Klaes Molenaer and Thomas Heeremans.
To the second group Esaias van de Velde, monochrome works of Jan van Goyen, Salomon and Jacob van Ruysdael, Aert van der Neer and Jan van de Capelle.
About kolf not golf
Two men in the right side of our painting are holding a kolf club, called a “kliek”: its wooden shaft ends in a heavy metal head made of iron or lead.
The development of kolf was of course tied with that of golf. In two words: one has to hit a ball (in those days made of wool covered with leather) to a target in a minimum number of strokes. Kolf is already documented as far back as the year 1200. It could be played indoors or outside. As in those days winters in the Low Countries were often very cold with long periods of frost and snow kolf became popular during winter: frozen rivers and lakes provided the ideal surface and space for kolf and also for ice skating. Both sports were often represented in paintings and engravings during the 17th century.
While golf (its idea originated in Scotland under the influence of kolf) became a spacious outdoor game, kolf turned by the 18th century inside.
Why should you buy this painting?
Because it sums up why 17th century Dutch winter scenes are so sought after: a huge sky, a vast frozen surface, a mixed population of simple peasants and rich town folks and decorative sportive elements such as ice skaters, sledges and kolf players.