Vilhelm Hammershøi

Vilhelm Hammershøi, 'Interior, Strandgade 30' (1901).

Vilhelm Hammershøi, 'Interior, Strandgade 30' (1901).

Vilhem Hammershøi (1864- 1916) was a Danish artist and painter. Hammershøi, the son of a well-to-do merchant, showed great promise as an artist from an early age. He was educated at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts.  Hammershøi’s work has had a posthumous revival, he is now one of the best known Scandinavian painters. His work has been shown recently at the Musée d’Orsay in Paris, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Guggenheim, New York and the Royal Academy of Arts, London. His work was also the inspiration of Chanel’s Spring/Summer Campaign 09 by Karl Lagerfeld.

I think his paintings are remarkable. Hammershøi is most famous for his interiors. He rarely uses bright colours in his paintings, but rather explores grey, brown and dark hues. Whilst the colour palette is muted and subtle, there is a lot of strength and freshness in minimalism of his pictures. He captures the ‘banality of everyday life’. The figure in his pictures is often his wife Ida. Many of his pictures were painted in Christianshavn, Copenhagen (Strandgade 30 and Strandgade 25) where he lived for over ten years with his wife. Hammershøi studied under Neils Christian Kierkegaard, Holger Grønvold, Vilhelm Kyhn. His influences include Vermeer and Hammershøi’s own work was reported to be admired by Pierre-Auguste Renoir.

Vilhelm Hammershøi: Dust Motes Dancing in Sunlight, painted 1900

Vilhelm Hammershøi: Dust Motes Dancing in Sunlight, painted 1900

 Vilhelm Hammershoi, Interior, Strandgade 30 (1908)

Vilhelm Hammershoi, Interior, Strandgade 30 (1908)

Vilhelm Hammershøi, Interior with young man reading, 1898

Vilhelm Hammershøi, Interior with young man reading, 1898

 Art & Perception  a multi-disciplinary dialog      * reinvent your childhood »     * « Routes Eight and Fifty Nine  Texture, the Internet, and Other Conundrums  Posted by June Underwood on January 23rd, 2009  I have just joined Facebook (thanks, D.) and of course, instantly found a group dedicated to a textile artist’s focus: namely, texture.  The photos of “texture” on the group site were close-ups, both of quilted fabric and of objects that showed as textured. I started through my photos and quickly realized that deciding on what shows texture is not as easy as might be imagined. Here are some possibilities from my files.  The High Note, JOU, Computer images on Silk, quilted, 12 x 12″, 2008.  The upper layer (of computer-printed sheer fabric) is turned back to show under layer. Normally the sheer would fall over the entire piece, showing through as it does on the right bottom. This dropping of the sheer obscures much of the texture while at the same time, contradictorily, adds to it.  Vilhelm Hammershoi, Sunbeam (and various other titles), 1900, oil on canvas.  I was thinking of writing this post on Hammershoi, so I had lots of photos of his work easily accessible. He’s Danish, died at age 52 in 1916, was in Paris while the Impressionists were impressing people (he wasn’t, impressed, I mean), and shocked his contemporaries by not making paintings with stories, content, mytholgies, or “meaning.” Of course, we’ve added all those to his paintings since then.  Photo, Main Street in January, Portland Oregon, 2009  More often than not, we see texture, even if we know the thing we are looking at is flat, like those tree tops that look soft.  Vilhelm Hammershoi,Gentoft Lake, 1905, oil  Hammershoi’s techniques included using paint thinly, in layers, ala Vermeer. His work is near-abstract, although the images are clearly identifiable. He has been highly touted because of the flatness of his images, although his late paintings of city buildings in London have been less than positively reviewed — mostly, I suspect, because they use perspective so classically. But in the Gentoft Lake image the water has great texture, as do the doors in Sunbeam.  Charley Bierly, Little Pine Creek in Snow, photo, about 2005  JOU Little Pine in Snow, oil on board, 2008.  So texture isn’t just a matter of medium (as seen in the quilted piece, The High Note) or a kind of technique (as in my version of Little Pine Creek). It, like most art, is a matter of illusion. Even though we know the tips of the trees would lash rather than soothe and the hills are solid and stony, they still look soft.  Photo of Vilhelm Hammershoi’s parents home in Copenhagen (portrait above piano is by Hammershoi, of his sister, who is most likely the pianist, also)  Vilhelm Hammershoi, Interior with Woman at Piano, Strandgade 30, 1901

Vilhelm Hammershoi, Interior with Woman at Piano, Strandgade 30, 1901

Maame x

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4 Responses to Vilhelm Hammershøi

  1. Henry Jansen says:

    Absolutely beautiful evocation of light. Thanks so much for posting these. I’m currently exploring the use of neutrals in my own paintings (though not to this exclusive extent), and these images were very helpful.

  2. Arthémisia says:

    Wonderful evocation of loneliness too.
    We are now in the Art of emptiness, nothing, time passes, the horror intangible, odorless
    and no name of our confrontation with nothingness.
    Something to do with Edward Hooper of course, but also with Morandi, for example. Something of the stop, the pause, the mortified gaze.
    This painting of anguish, of the death of the subjet, of the death of the personne, is becoming
    absolutely terrible.
    Cordially
    Arthémisia
    postscript : Please excuse my very bad English!

  3. ann clark says:

    Arthémisia, I can see how one would read Hammershøi as you do, but with respect I disagree…I don’t see this loneliness quite so much; it is a meek gaze to be sure, and pensive, but not at nothingness, at least to the degree you suggest. Maybe his wife was just shy? 😛 I see instead an obsessive appreciation for the beauty of the simple, the minimal, the fall of light on bare floorboards, the poignant spaces of communion. There is the pause, of course, because that’s what is demanded by the sudden respite from ornament. But there is more than enough here to hold up against the void. Might not the sparse compositions be a technical device, a means of exploring the elements of composition in a formal sense, rather than symbolical or intended to evoke emotion? I think the comparison you draw with Morandi is fitting, because his paintings demonstrate the same appreciation for the ‘rightness’ of the everyday elements of a life, and a willingness to part with extraneous detail, to get down to the essence of things. I think they both prove amply that they found something though. Apologies to inspiremeplease for hijacking your post. Thank you for your inspirations!

  4. Pingback: The Butcher Press Blog » Vilhelm Hammershøi

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