Frans Hals was baptised in Antwerp in 1582/3. Following the Fall of Antwerp to the Spanish in 1585, his family subsequently moved to Haarlem in the northern Netherlands, where Frans’s brother Dirk (who would also become a painter) was baptised, in 1591. Karel van Mander claimed to have been Hals’s teacher, although no trace of his influence can be seen in Hals’s work. Hals was first documented as a painter when he enrolled at the Haarlem guild in 1610 and his earliest dated work is a portrait of 1611.
Hals was almost exclusively a portrait painter, his commissions included a number of group portraits, from the ‘Banquet of the Officers of the Haarlem Civic Guard of St George’ (1616) to the Regentesses of the Haarlem Almshouse (1644). In 1616 he visited Antwerp, his only recorded trip outside the northern Netherlands, where he appears to have seen the work of Peter Paul Rubens. He was also a member of the Haarlem Chamber of Rhetoric, a dramatic society, from 1616 -1624.
He died in Haarlem on 29 August 1666. His reputation did not long survive him; however, the Laughing Cavalier played a central role in his reinstatement in the later nineteenth century.