Frans Hals, considered “the first outstanding master of free Holland”, knew how to capture the sprit and life of an occasion and translate it into his portraits without making it look “staged” and “stiff”. For example, in his portrait of merchant Pieter van den Broecke (Fig. 2), Hals perfectly captured his liveliness and sense of adventure by making the portrait asymmetrical. Achieving balance without symmetry was unique to many artists in the Baroque period, and Hals used this as well as using light and “fleeting” brush stokes to make his portrait look more like a snapshot than a posed portraiture. Although the head is slightly tilted and oriented more towards the left, the arm which sticks out and rests on his hip as well as his hand which reaches out to balance on his cane bring a sense of effortless balance since they’re oriented towards the right side of the canvas. Personally, I greatly admire how Frans Hals fleshed out the personalities of the people in his work; I feel intrigued and somewhat connected to these people through their smiles and casual poses.
Gombrich, E.H.. The Story of Art. New York: Phaidon Press Inc, 1995.