The exhibition Frans Hals: Work in Progress had three stages: before, during and after conservation work. At the start of the presentation visitors saw the completed restoration of the Regents of the St Elisabeth’s Hospital, on display for the first time to the public without its layers of dirty varnish and old retouches. The conservation of the Regentesses of the Old Men’s Almshouse was ongoing and was continued in the workshop. The conservation of the Regents of the Old Men’s Almshouse was in the preparatory stage: research was underway but conservation work had yet to be started. What was already clear was that this painting has also darkened considerably. Old drawings of it give an impression of the original colours.
The presentation also looked at the research into Hals’s portraits of regents, the restoration history of the paintings and their original appearance. Several questions and dilemmas that arose from the research, the conservation and preservation of old paintings were examined in the exhibition. What did these paintings look like in the past? What has changed? How was Hals able to paint so expressively and with such assurance? What kind of materials did he use and how did he build up his paintings? What can we do to preserve such valuable paintings for the future? Frans Hals’s incredible painting technique and the original destinations of the paintings in the various regents’ rooms were also explored.
The three regent portraits by Hals and the group portrait of the regentesses of the St Elisabeth’s Hospital by Johannes Verspronck were on display during Frans Hals: Work in Progress, that took place from June 13 until September 27 (2015). The exhibition included a reconstruction of the wall chart depicted in the Regents of the St Elisabeth’s Hospital, drawings by Wybrand Hendriks and Cornelis van Noorde, a number of historical books and records and an old box of historical restoration materials. Audio-visual aids provided further explanation about the restorations and the research.