Each year, Haarlem’s Frans Hals Museum celebrates the arrival of Spring in style. Traditional tulip and modern vases, filled with flowers, grace rooms showing Dutch Golden Age art in this former almshouse. It all creates a stunning display.

This is not all the museum offers at the moment. It recently opened a new exhibition entitled Haarlem Heroes and Other Artists. For the museum may bear the name of the best known Haarlem Hero: Frans Hals? Its collection contains more art by other Haarlem heroes.

The other heroes

The collection includes works by many “other masters” from the 16th and 17th centuries. After all: Haarlem was an important “hub” for artists. A new presentation shows not just works by Frans Hals, but also by other “Haarlem Heroes”. One of the rooms has a map showing which painter was a student of which master. Here are several generations!

Visitors come across important works by Dutch Golden Age artists including Hendrick Goltzius, Karel van Mander, Jan Porcellis, Salomon van Ruysdael, Nicolaes Berchem and many others. All are from the museum’s own collection. These works are grouped around themes like gender, religion and origin, static and movement.

The modern display also explores changing tastes. Which artist was a star and why does he or she suddenly becomes completely forgotten with all works often suddenly attributed to someone else? Why did artists become successful? Do background and status play a role? Or is it traditions, art history, the museum, the public? Who decides what is “in” or “out” of favour, fashion?

Golden Age and Contemporary Art

Throughout the museum, visitors not only come across stunning flower displays. Among all the Dutch Golden Age works, contemporary art is also displayed.

Discover works by modern heroes including Tracey Emin, Céline van Balen, Barbara Visser, Guido van der Werve and many others. Their works are found throughout the museum, surrounded by centuries-old art.

The museum wants to establish trans-historical relationships between contemporary and old masters. This certainly challenges visitors who stop in their tracks, take another look … really take notice.

What is this modern portrait of a girl wearing a scarf doing – among all these old masters? Who is she? Why do visitors not react like this when viewing portraits of women wearing caps, scarfs, hats, bonnets, veils – in works by old masters? Is it the artists; is it us?

Such and similar questions may crop up, when suddenly coming across a modern work of art among old masters and pretty flowers. Not afraid to be challenged? Willing to really take notice?  Kate   28th March 2019

The exhibition Haarlem Heroes and Other Artists runs till 1st of July 2019. The annual flower display (“Museum in bloei”) closes in a few weeks time. 

NB –  this museum consists of two different locations: Hof and Hal, both in Haarlem.

Photo courtesy museum: Barbara Visser (2001) “meets” Gerritsz Roestraten (1665)