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Vilhelm Hammershøi


The works of Vilhelm Hammershøi (1864–1916), one of the leading exponents of Nordic mood painting, open the door to a tranquil poetic world. Quiet interiors and deserted city squares feature in many of his paintings. He created the impression that time has stopped by limiting himself to muted variations on grey and brown tones.

Hammershøi is known above all for his quiet, introspective interiors – mostly based on his own apartment at Strandgade 30, Copenhagen – but he was also an accomplished landscape artist. He was born into a middle-class family and from the age of eight received tuition in drawing from Niels Christian Kierkegaard, a former pupil of the Danish Neoclassical painter C.W. Eckersberg. In 1879 he enrolled at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, where he became a friend of Jens Ferdinand Willumsen, among others. In 1887 he travelled to the Netherlands and Belgium and was inspired by the work of the Belgian Symbolist Xavier Mellery.

In 1889 Hammershøi exhibited at the Exposition Universelle in Paris, where he saw James Abbott McNeill Whistler’s work for the first time. He travelled widely in the 1890s – to Paris, northern Italy and Stockholm – often accompanied by his wife Ida Ilstedt. Inspired by Whistler’s Nocturnes, he visited London on several occasions. Otherwise he lived a quiet, peaceful life without lively social engagements. This withdrawal from the “noisy and tasteless present” was a deliberate choice on his part.