03 juni 2020

Vilhelm Hammershøi #3

Strandgade 30, København. (bron: Wikimedia Commons)

The apartment building at Strandgade 30, Copenhagen, Denmark.

Interior floor plan of Hammershøi's apartment at Strandgade 30, Copenhagen. (bron: Sotheby's)

Courtyard of Strandgade 30. (bron: Kgl. Biblioteks billedsamling)

"The Getty Museum has put on view Vilhelm Hammershøi's Interior with an Easel, Bredgade 25 (1912) (Zie de post van 2 juni 2020 (hk)). It's a painting of an empty apartment: no figures, no story, no moral. There is barely furniture. The apartment looks too bare to be inhabited, but it was the Copenhagen home of Hammershøi and wife, Ida.

Hammershøi produced a hundred-some paintings of his severely tidy living spaces at Strandgade 30 and Bredgade 25. When there's a figure, it's Ida, often turned away from the viewer. The London Interior (1899) is at once empty and claustrophobic. A round table, holding nothing, fills the room and seems to block the doors.

One of Hammershøi's best-known pictures, existing in several versions, shows beams of sunlight in a completely empty room.
How did the Hammershøis live this way? The short answer is that they didn't. Early in his career, Hammershøi had a separate studio and did salon-size paintings. He created the remarkable Five Portraits (1901-2) in the hope that Denmark's national gallery would acquire it. No such luck.

In 1897 Hammershøi painted a pink "Louis XVI" room in his apartment. The color is an experiment he didn't repeat. The following year Hammershøi moved to Strandgade 30 and had the walls painted muted gray. For the remainder of his career, Hammershøi would be the Matisse of greige.

Painting is a messy business, as is life. Photographs show that Hammershøi's home-studio was more cluttered than his paintings. He rotated furniture and tchotchkes, like a Rubik's cube, to achieve his sparse compositions. When the picture was done, he moved the furniture back and did a Danish death cleaning somewhere else.

Vilhelm Hammershøi. (bron: Los Angeles County Museum on Fire)

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