“Frans Hals made things that were extremely difficult look easy,” says Joseph. Compared to Rubens or Michelangelo, “his brushstrokes look almost flippant”, he says. By contrast, Joseph’s Laughing Legend with Stratocaster was a “slow and exploratory process” which took seven years − not least because, unlike Hals, who had life models, Joseph had to work from a photograph, a process he describes as “extremely difficult”.
Many of our greatest artists not only created work inspired by Hals, but learnt from him by attempting to replicate some of his most ambitious works. Édouard Manet, Antoine Vollon, Mary Cassatt, John Singer Sargent, William Merrit Chase and Max Liebermann all made pilgrimages to Haarlem to make painstaking copies of Hals’s paintings.
Joseph is keen to point out, however, that Laughing Legend with Stratocaster is different. “I wasn’t trying to copy Frans Hals. It’s impossible!” he says. “You may be able to copy one of Picasso’s paintings, it may be possible to copy a Caravaggio or almost fool people with a rendition of a Da Vinci − but that’s not going to work with Frans Hals. That technique, I’ve never seen it used anywhere else.”
The Credit Suisse Exhibition: Frans Hals is showing at the National Gallery, London until 21 January 2024.
‘Beam Me Up, Sweet Lord!’, an exhibition of Tam Joseph’s paintings and sculptures from the 1980s onwards, is on display at Felix & Spear, London until 29 October.
Tam Joseph – I Know What I See is published by Four Corners Books.
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