Vilhelm Hammershøi (1864-1916): Interior. With Piano and Woman in Black. Strandgade 30
Oil on canvas | 63 x 52.5 cm | 1901
Hammershøi painted his rooms either empty as in Dust Motes Dancing in the Sunbeams, or populated by objects and people like this, one of the more furnished pictures. The interior is rendered with measured distance – both in the played-down character of the colours and in the characteristic formal structure where the immediate foreground of the picture is empty.
A typical figure in Hammershøi’s work is the woman with her back to us. She stands unmoving as a pillar, not engaged in any action but silently absorbed in her own thoughts. She is like the furniture – and neither the woman nor the furniture demonstrates or carries any real meaning. All the same it is as if an invisible meaning is present. The elements of the picture might suggest an allegory of love and art: not a living, fruitful exchange but an inaccessible tableau where the woman and the objects, encapsulated like objects, first and foremost become an image of melancholy longing.
Hammershøi was the last great painter in Danish nineteenth-century art. He painted against a background of modern experience, but his painting never broke with the basic rules that had defined the point of departure for the pictures of the Danish Golden Age. His work therefore has a distinctive, striking character which expresses both his independent artistic temperament and a longing for the Golden Age whose foundations had been reduced to ruins.
In 1898 Hammershøi moved with his wife Ida to the house on Strandgade 30 where they lived until 1909. The intimate artistic association with central Copenhagen gave his art a new direction. Whereas his motifs had formerly alternated between figure and landscape painting, this location truly made Hammershøi a painter of interiors. The rooms became his constant source of subjects, and the walls and windows that formed the boundary against the world almost literally became the background for his painting.
View more works by Hammershøi at Kunstindeks Danmark.