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About Vilhelm Hammershoi - Danish Artist

Updated on November 5, 2015
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Katherine has researched and written about many British, European and Japanese Artists - both past and present

An introduction to Vilhelm Hammershi (1864-1916)

Vilhelm Hammershoi is a Danish artist who developed a very distinctive style of painting.

This site provides links to information on the internet and in books about Vilhelm Hammershoi including links to where you can see images and read about his work

[Note: His surname contains the letter (a slashed 'o') before the last letter - but this causes problems in software which does not recognise the Danish language]

Dust Motes Dancing in the Sunbeams (1900) by Vilhelm Hammerschoi | Oil on canvas | Ordrupgaard Museum, Charlottenlund, Denmark
Dust Motes Dancing in the Sunbeams (1900) by Vilhelm Hammerschoi | Oil on canvas | Ordrupgaard Museum, Charlottenlund, Denmark | Source
Photo of Vilhelm Hammerschoi
Photo of Vilhelm Hammerschoi

Vilhelm Hammershi - a life

Vilhelm Hammershi (May 15, 1864 - February 13, 1916) was a nineteenth century Danish painter.

He painted low-key portraits and interiors and his paintings have been characterised as 'poetic'

Biography

Hammershi was born in Copenhagen. His parents were Christian Hammershoi and his wife, Frederikke (ne Rentzmann). Hammershi married Ida Ilsted in 1891. She is the woman frequently featured in his paintings with her back to the painter. His sister Anna features as a model in his early paintings. She and he were enthusiastic about having their photographs taken.

In terms of temperament he has been characterised as shy and quiet. Emil Nolde and Rainer Maria Rilke, both remarked on his retiring manner and reluctance to talk.

Education

His art education started at the age of eight when he started to study drawing Neils Christian Kierkegaard and Holger Grnvold, as well as painting with Vilhelm Kyhn. Subsequently his art education was further developed through studies with Frederik Vermehren and others at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts. From 1883 to 1885, he studied with Peder Severin Kryer at the Independent Study Schools,

Artistic career

Hammershi worked mainly in his native city of Copenhagen where he mainly painted portraits and interiors. He is most well known and respected for his paintings of interiors. These were often painted in his homes in Copenhagen at

  • Strandgade 30 (where he lived with his wife from 1898 to 1909, and
  • Strandgade 25 (where they lived from 1913 to 1916).

Interior with the Artist's Easel (1910) by Vilhelm Hammershøi | Oil, on canvas, 84 x 69 cm. | National Gallery of Denmark
Interior with the Artist's Easel (1910) by Vilhelm Hammershøi | Oil, on canvas, 84 x 69 cm. | National Gallery of Denmark | Source

Interiors are his subject

His interiors feature the everyday. Nothing much happens. They have been described by some as bland. The overall impression of his style is one of coolness, restraint, and quietude.

People find them very peaceful. Others consider them to be melancholic.

Hammershoi's wife figures in many of these interiors, often depicted from behind. Ida is also the model in many similar works by her brother, Peter Ilsted. Peter and Vilhelm were lifelong friends, business partners, and colleagues.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art held an exhibition of their collective works in 2001, and there was an exhibition of his works in 2008 at the Royal Academy, London.

Hammershøi

Hammershoi
Hammershoi

This comprehensive survey, published to coincide with a major exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts in 2008, explores the work of the Danish painter Vilhelm Hammershoi (1864-1916).

This was the exhibition which brought his work to the attention of a wider public - and enhanced his popularity.

As a result the book is now difficult to get hold of and very expensive!

 

'Hammershi is not one of those one need talk about in a rush. His work is long and slow and at whatever moment one turns to it, it will always offer ample reason to talk about the most crucial and fundamental things in art.'

Rainer Maria Rilke, 1905

The Tall Windows 1913 (De hje vinduer) by Vilhelm Hammershi | Oil on canvas | Ordrupgaard Museum, Charlottenlund, Denmark
The Tall Windows 1913 (De hje vinduer) by Vilhelm Hammershi | Oil on canvas | Ordrupgaard Museum, Charlottenlund, Denmark | Source

He also painted portraits and landscapes

In terms of portraits, his debut as an artist came at the Charlottenborg Exhibition in the spring of 1885 with Portrait of a Young Girl. This was a portrait of his sister Anna. Pierre Auguste Renoir is reported to have admired this painting.

Hammershoi travelled within Europe and visited London. London at the time had a polluted atmosphere due to coal smoke and was prone to having the foggy atmosphere much liked by Monet. Both his exteriors of grand buildings in Copenhagen and in London (he painted two exteriors of the British Museum between 1905 and 1906) and his landscapes lack figures.

He painted landscapes and studies of architecture and buildings - such as the British Museum. His landscapes of the countryside surrounding Copenhagen typically featured rolling hills, stands of trees, and farm houses.

Technique and Critique

Technique

Hammershoi's paintings lack bright colours. He employed a limited palette and focused on the colour of light found in very subtle and muted tones. Many may think of his work as grey but it in fact more of an exercise in coloured greys rather than any monochromatic version.

My personal view is that it is "the face" rather than the figure which is absent from paintings outside the home.

After a trip to Paris, his work became overly detailed. According to art critic Souren Melikian, his "painterly skill remained but the magic was lost."

Critical acclaim

Hammershi early works, with their simplicity and recording of the "banality of everyday life," enjoyed critical acclaim. He was sought out by artists and literary figures of the time

Hammershi is now one of the most well-known artists in Scandinavia. Comprehensive retrospectives of his work have been organized by the Muse d'Orsay in Paris and the Guggenheim Museum in New York. In 2008, the Royal Academy of Arts in London hosted the first major exhibition in Britain of Hammershi's work, Vilhelm Hammershi: The Poetry of Silence.

Commemoration

In 1997, Denmark issued a postage stamp in his honor. A BBC television documentary, Michael Palin and the Mystery of Hammershoi, was aired in 2005.

text based on Wikipedia article on Vilhelm Hammershi and a number of other articles

The Four Rooms (1914) by Vilhelm Hammerschoi | oil on canvas, 85 × 70.5 cm (33.5 × 27.8 in) | Ordrupgaard, Copenhagen
The Four Rooms (1914) by Vilhelm Hammerschoi | oil on canvas, 85 × 70.5 cm (33.5 × 27.8 in) | Ordrupgaard, Copenhagen | Source

Hammershi and Europe - by Kasper Monrad

A comprehensive study of the great Danish painter by the Chief Curator at the Statens Museum for Kunst, Copenhagen. This monograph places Hammershi within the context of his European contemporaries. This generously illustrated volume examines Hammershi's work as a whole and in relation to the artists of his generation.

Amazon reviews: 5.0 out of 5 stars (2 customer reviews) | Like (7)

Hammershøi and Europe
Hammershøi and Europe

Hardcover: 272 pagesPublisher: Prestel Publishing (April 25, 2012)

 

VIDEO: Vilhelm Hammershi - on YouTube

Exhibitions of paintings by Vilhelm Hammershoi

Links to websites relating to exhibitionsof paintings by Vilhelm Hammershoi

The Royal Academy published a number of articles during the course of the 2008 exhibition.

Vilhelm Hammershi [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Images of Vilhelm Hammershi - online galleries

There are not a lot of websites where you can find the images of Vilhelm Hammershi online

BOOKS: Vilhelm Hammershi - books on Amazon

There are very few books about Vilhelm Hammershoi - and, as a result, those volumes which are available can command tremendous prices

Vilhelm Hammershoi 1864-1916: Danish Painter of Solitude and Light (Guggenheim Museum Publications)
Vilhelm Hammershoi 1864-1916: Danish Painter of Solitude and Light (Guggenheim Museum Publications)

The is the catalogue for an exhibition that received wide acclaim at the Musee d'Orsay, Paris, and that opens at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, in June 1998. It presents 80 of Hammershoi's distinctive and intimate portraits, landscapes, and interiors.

 
Hammershøi i Dreyer (Spanish and English Edition)
Hammershøi i Dreyer (Spanish and English Edition)

Brought together, for the first time, the work of the two most universal Danish artists Hammershoi (1864-1916) and Dreyer (1889-1968). A common fascination with face and figure, inside and outside, light and life.

 

VIDEO: A fan appreciates Vilhelm Hammershi - on YouTube

BOOK: Danish Art - book on Amazon

Vilhelm Hammershoi: and Danish Art at the Turn of the Century
Vilhelm Hammershoi: and Danish Art at the Turn of the Century

Winner of the Amelienborg Prize in its Danish version, this book examines the life and work of Vilhelm Hammershoi as a Danish painter and also in the context of European art in general in the early 20th century. It looks at his relationship with art figures of the day and at his artistic legacy.

 

Images by Vilhelm Hammershoi in Museums and Art Galleries

Museums and Art Galleries where you can see the paintings of Vilhelm Hammershi

Reviews of Vilhelm Hammershi

Articles about Vilhelm Hammershi and reviews of his art

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    • makingamark profile imageAUTHOR

      Katherine Tyrrell 

      10 years ago from London

      You can find a comment in the RA exhibition website For example:"Hammershøi revered Whistler, whom he tried – uharacteristically in vain – to visit in London in 1898 (Whistler was in Paris at the time). Many a Hammershøi could have been entitled, in Whistler style, Harmony in Grey and Black. But there is another point here: Hammershøi’s treatment of colour was a strategy of reduction – reducing its range to increase its intensity and controllability. And reduction, in all sorts of ways, is a distinctively modernist strategy – pithily encapsulated by the architect Mies van der Rohe’s slogan ‘less is more’."

    • profile image

      anonymous 

      10 years ago

      I would like to know how Whislter inflenced Hammershoi's work.

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