Frans Hals’ portraits of regents could be described as site-specific works: works of art made especially for a particular place in a particular era. In 1664 Hals painted the governors of the Old Men’s Almshouse specifically for the regents’ chambers of this charitable institution, now rooms 9 and 10 of this museum.
Pavèl van Houten (Bergen op Zoom, 1984) is also creating a site-specific work, in response to the exhibition Frans Hals: Work in Progress.
Pavèl van Houten zooms in on the craquelure that characterizes the skin of paintings. Craquelure is a random pattern of fine cracks and crazing in a smooth surface. The ageing of paint is one of the possible causes. With the precision and attention of a monk or a microbiologist, Van Houten documented lines and areas of wear in Hals’s Regents of St Elisabeth’s Hospital (on display in room 18), which has yet to be restored. He gives them a new significance with the aid of codes and drawings.
He devotes the same attention to this exhibition space. You might not see it immediately, but the door and window frames also have craquelure. As Van Houten explains, ‘Cracks in the paint in a picture occur in the same way as cracks in the sand, your skin or the bark of a tree. Concentrating on the craquelure diverts attention from the image and returns to one of the basic patterns in nature.’