Vilhelm Hammershøi

Note: English pronunciation of the name Hammershoi renders the third syllable as "skoy.

... born in Copenhagen, where he lived throughout his life. The son of a merchant, he was trained in drawing from the age of 8 and studied at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts. As a young artist, he was influenced by Whistler. His early work aroused some controversy, initially over its limited color range and somewhat sketchy handling. The rejection of Bedroom by the Academy jury in 1890 was the catalyst for the creation of a new Independent Exhibition the following year. Hammershøi is best known for his paintings of interiors, generally in a restricted grayish color range. Where there is a figure, usually female, it is either seen from behind, absorbed in some task, or wrapped in contemplation of something beyond the space of the painting.

... reinvented the rear view, an unusual pose in the millennia-old tradition of the portrait. Sitters were almost always portrayed frontally, or at an angle, or in profile. In the 17th c. Dutch master Johannes Vermeer depicted women from behind in domestic interiors, while early in the 19th c. Caspar David Friedrich showed a man from behind as a symbolic figure in the landscape. Hammershøi’s rendering of a lone subject, usually his wife, mother or sister, is made unfamiliar and strange by the anonymity of an unseen face.

Helped to found the group Den Frie in 1891, after several of his works had been rejected by the jury of the Academy.... painted portraits, landscapes, architectural subjects and, from the later 1890s, above all Vermeer-like interiors, usually with a single figure standing or seated. His work is noted for its quietness, austere simplicity, and tonal studies of light and shade; some affinity with Whistler and Carrière.
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First Collected by

Cindy Shih


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