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Landskab. Sommer. "Ryet".

Landskab. Sommer. "Ryet".
oil on canvas
17 7⁄8 x 22 in. (45.5 x 56 cm.)
Painted in 1896
Aage Mantzius, Copenhagen.
Emil August Bloch, Copenhagen; sale, Udstillingslokalerne ved Charlottenborg, Copenhagen, 17-18 February 1920, lot 35.
Martha Schibler, Copenhagen; sale, Arne Bruun Rasmussen, Copenhagen, 29 November 1962, lot 12.
Acquired at the above sale by the family of the present owner.
K. Madsen, 'Vilhelm Hammershøi' in Kunst, Copenhagen, 1899, p. 12.
S. Michaëlis & A. Bramsen, Vilhelm Hammershøi, Kunstneren og hand Vaerk, Copenhagen, 1918, p. 94, no. 165 (titled 'Landskab. Sommer. “Ryet”').
S. Meyer-Abich, Vilhelm Hammershøi: Das malerische Werk, Ruhr-Universität, Bochum, 1996, no. 140.
Copenhagen, Kunstforeningen, Arbejder af Vilhelm Hammershøi, April 1916, 1. afd. no. 126, p. 13.
Copenhagen, Ordrupgaard, Vilhelm Hammershøi, October - November 1981, no. 61, p. 173 (illustrated p. 87).
New York, Wildenstein & Co., Vilhelm Hammershøi: Painter of Stillness and Light, January 1983, no. 37, p. 98 (illustrated p. 55); this exhibition later travelled to Washington, The Phillips Collection, February - March 1983.
Copenhagen, Ordrupgaard, Vilhelm Hammershøi, Danish Painter of Solitude and Light, August - October 1997, no. 14, p. 153 (illustrated p. 74); this exhibition later travelled to Paris, Musée d’Orsay, November - March 1998; and New York, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, June - September 1998.
Gothenburg, Göteborgs konstmuseum, Vilhelm Hammershøi, October 1999 - January 2000, no. 21, p. 84 (illustrated p. 85); this exhibition later travelled to Stockholm, Nationalmuseum, February - May 2000.
Copenhagen, Ordrupgaard, Hammershøi > Dreyer, The Magic of Images, September 2006 - January 2007, no. 30, p. 144 (illustrated); this exhibition later travelled to Barcelona, Centre de Cultura Contemporània, January - May 2007.

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Lot Essay

Painted in the summer of 1896, Landskab. Sommer. “Ryet.” is a powerful illustration of the versatility and richness of Vilhelm Hammershøi’s artistic vision, which he explored across a variety of different subject matter. Poul Vad considers the 1890s, when the present work was executed, as a time when Hammershøi painted ‘…distinctive and important woodland pictures’ (Vilhelm Hammershøi and Danish Art at the Turn of the Century, 1992, p. 155). In his overview of the artist’s wooded landscapes, Vad observes: ‘These, as well as other contemporary and later pictures, show what it was Hammershøi saw first and foremost in the tree: not the crown, nor the foliage, which in his pictures is like accretions of green about the limbs, but, on the contrary, the trunk and limbs themselves as architecture and graphic art... A corresponding scrupulous graphic definition of the structure of the limbs and twigs recurs here and there in the art of the time, although as a rule in an artistic context quite different from Hammershøi’s – Van Gogh and the young Mondrian are examples’ (ibid., p. 158).
It is therefore no surprise that shortly after this painting was completed, Sergei Diaghilev, the founder and impresario of the renowned Ballets Russes, visited Copenhagen with the aim of organising an exhibition of Scandinavian art. Struck by Hammershøi’s unique voice, he purchased a landscape painting from the artist, as well as commissioning a second work depicting a woman sewing at a table in a quiet interior.
In the summer of 1895 Hammershøi stayed at Lille Værløse, north of Copenhagen. During this trip he painted two scenes from nearby Ryet, near Farum Lake (Bramsen 1918, nos. 141 and 146). At the same time, he probably created the drawing which served as a preparatory study for this oil landscape, which he completed the following year. The full-scale preliminary drawing, executed in black chalk and pencil, is held by the Royal Collection of Prints and Drawings in the Statens Museum for Kunst, Copenhagen. As Naoko Sato observes, an oil painting following a preparatory pencil drawing ‘is extremely rare for Hammershøi, and although the depiction of the forest on the right in the background is omitted [from this final oil version]… it can be seen that the work was basically completed faithfully to the drawing’ (Vilhelm Hammershøi: The Poetry of Silence, exh. cat., The National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo, 2008, p. 82).
While faithful to the original drawing, the finished painting informs the viewer which elements of the landscape Hammershøi considered most important to achieving a successful composition. The removal of the taller trees featured in the sketch, for example, brings a new dominance to the positioning of the two trees closest to the viewer’s gaze. As Björn Fredlund has noted, ‘the artist is very precise when it comes to rendering the structure of the trees... As if in a clearing, the two large trees remain with their tall, slender trunks and their sparse foliage. They stand out as individuals against the more closed and anonymous groups of trees in the background’ (Vilhelm Hammershøi, exh. cat., Nationalmuseum, Stockholm, 1999-2000, p. 84). These foremost trees, one standing slightly before the other, echo a structural motif which Hammershøi would later use across his œuvre – the artist almost always depicted a pair of candles in similar placement, with one staggered behind the other, as seen in paintings such as Five Portraits, 1901-1902, The Coin Collector, 1904, and Interior. Artificial Light, 1909.
As Naoko Sato observes, in Landskab. Sommer. “Ryet.” ‘there is no depiction of light as seen in other landscape paintings. The depictions of trees appear as if they are shadows, making the landscape… reminiscent of ink paintings’ (exh. cat., op. cit., 2008, p. 82). Indeed, the graphic simplicity and an interplay of light and shadow in Hammershøi’s observations share several common structural forms with Sumi-e, or Japanese ink painting. We know from a treasured photograph depicting the artist’s sister Anna framed by a Japanese parasol, that the family had an interest in Japanese culture and art (Juncker-Jensen, Portrait of Anna Hammershøi, circa 1885; Kongelige Bibliotek). Hendrik Wivel explains, ‘In Japonisme, [Hammershøi] found a concept of the picture that was in keeping with his own with regard to clear, coloured contoured lines, simplicity and radical, perspectival shears between foreground and depth… tree trunks stand calligraphically against the landscape and light grey sky’ (Hammershøi in the David Collection, Copenhagen, 2017, p. 35).
At the same time, there are certain parallels between Hammershøi’s approach to the landscape genre and his unpopulated city scenes of Copenhagen and London. He would often choose forest or woodland scenes that were located close to populated areas, and yet adopted a view that remained devoid of any human presence. Often selecting a vantage point among the trees, Hammershøi would embed himself within the landscape, training his eye on a narrow fragment of the overall scene, or a particular detail that caught his attention. In this way, Hammershøi brought an innovative approach to a familiar motif, much as he had done with his interior views, imbuing this woodland with a rich and beautiful silence, stillness and tranquillity.
By the turn of the century Hammershøi’s growing international reputation ensured his inclusion in exhibitions at the Grosse Berliner Kunstusstellung and the Exposition Universelle in Paris, leading the newspaper Vort Land to remark: ‘At last the painter Vilhelm Hammershøi has arrived all along the line, most recently in Paris, where he is termed one of the most important and genuine artists of our time’ (Vort Land, 25 May 1900; quoted in op. cit., 1992, p. 161).

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