Vilhelm Hammershoi 1864-1916

Vilhelm Hammershoi was born and trained in Copenhagen, a city that remained the subject of much of his work. He painted both portraits and landscapes but is best known for his quiet interior scenes, like Interior (1899; London, Tate). These are painted in muted colours in which grey predominates and have a surface resemblance to paintings by Vermeer, often containing a single seated or standing figure but on occasion empty of both figures and furniture. They were usually painted in the rooms of his own homes, simply but tastefully decorated and containing antique furniture of the First Empire period (1804-14). His portraits include a remarkable group of five artist friends, sparse, dark and illuminated by candlelight, in which each sitter appears self-absorbed and indifferent to his fellows. His landscapes are equally melancholy, often painted under grey cloudy skies. The individuality of his work was the cause of controversial rejections from several of the annual exhibitions of the Copenhagen Academy which led to the foundation of the Independent Exhibition in 1891.

 

The oxford companion to western art