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Personally I am fond of the old; of old houses, of old furniture, of that quite special mood that these things possess.

—— Vilhelm Hammershøi

Vilhelm Hammershøi, often written in English Vilhelm Hammershoi ( 1864 – 1916), was a Danish painter. He is known for his poetic, subdued portraits and interiors. Hammershøi studied drawing as a youth before entering the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts in 1883. By 1885, his work had taken on the formal and emotional characteristics of both Johannes Vermeer and the earlier Danish painter Christen Købke. Hammershøi’s paintings are best described as muted in tone. He refrained from employing bright colours (except in his very early academic works), opting always for a limited palette consisting of greys, as well as desaturated yellows, greens, and other dark hues. His tableaux of figures turned away from the viewer project an air of slight tension and mystery, while his exteriors of grand buildings in Copenhagen and in London (he painted two exteriors of the British Museum between 1905 and 1906) are devoid of people, a quality they share with his landscapes.

Hammershøi’s 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, among them Emil Nolde and Rainer Maria Rilke, who both remarked on his retiring manner and reluctance to talk. Hammershøi’s melancholic vision has now regained its place in the public consciousness. He is now one of the best-known artists in Scandinavia, and comprehensive retrospectives of his work have been organized by the Musée d’Orsay in Paris and the Guggenheim Museum in New York. In 2008, the Royal Academy of London hosted the first major exhibition in Britain of Hammershøi’s work, Vilhelm Hammershøi: The Poetry of Silence.Hammershøi’s only painting on constant display in Britain is ‘Interior’ in the National Gallery. In 1997, Denmark issued a postage stamp in his honour. In 2005, Hammershøi’s life and oeuvre was featured in a BBC television documentary.


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Vilhelm Hammershoi

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