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Vilhelm Hammershøi (Danish, 1864-1916)
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Vilhelm Hammershøi (Danish, 1864-1916)

Sunlit interior, Strandgade 30

Details
Vilhelm Hammershøi (Danish, 1864-1916)
Sunlit interior, Strandgade 30
oil on canvas
16¼ x 21¼ (41 x 51.5 cm.)
Painted 1900-1905.
Provenance
A. Fonnesbach.
Anonymous sale, Winkel & Magnussen, 6 December 1939, lot 43.
Anonymous sale, Sotheby's, London, 28 November 1984, lot 318.
With Bury Street Gallery, London.
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 1986.
Literature
P. Vad, Hammershøi - vaerk og liv, Copenhagen, 1990, p. 391, illustrated.
P. Vad, Vilhelm Hammershøi and Danish Art at the Turn of the Century, Yale, 1992, p. 391, pl. 254.
S. Meyer-Abich, Vilhelm Hammershøi: Das malerische Werk, PhD thesis, Ruhr-Universität, Bochum, 1996, no. 287.
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Lot Essay

Like the vast majority of his interiors, the present work was painted in Hammershøi's apartment at Strandgade 30, a 17th century building in the Christianshavn district of Copenhagen, where he lived with his wife Ida from 1898 to 1909.

Hammershøi's interiors are notable for their muted harmonies of blues and greys, their sparseness and ethereal silence, which combine to create spaces that seem disjoined from physical reality. The present work pushes these features to the point of creating an almost abstract work of art: subsuming the already limited number of physical motifs to a carefully structured geometric composition which prefigures the work of Piet Mondrian.

The hermetic nature of Hammershøi's interior world, and its physical separation from that outside is explicitly suggested by the closed door, which confronts the viewer head on, and which is echoed in the repeated pattern of rectangles which fill the picture plane. Meanwhile the window, which is itself divided into multiple rectangles and also firmly closed, leads not to a world beyond, but acts instead simply as a prism, which throws a ghostly, but fragmented pool of light onto the spartan floor. The overall effect combines into a poetic whole which combines a softness of light and tone with a piercingly intense and introverted stillness. As Felix Krämer writes: "As interfaces, windows [traditionally] embody the dialectical relationship between interior and exterior: they stand both for connection with the outside world and for isolation from it...Despite the central position of the window, Hammershøi's painting departs from tradition because it does not turn on the relationship between interior and exterior, nearness and farness. Indeed the windowpanes are so opaque that the world outside can be deciphered only vaguely. Most window paintings contain far-ranging exterior views, but Hammershøi uses the murky panes and the sunbeams to focus attention on the interior." (Exh. cat. Hammershøi, London, Royal Academy, 2008, p. 20)

Hammershøi produced at least fifteen variations of this combination of window and door between 1900 and 1909, sometimes including the figure of his wife.

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