Loeb Danish Ardt Collection - page 158

VILHELM HAMMERSHØI
   ‒     
Vilhelm Hammershøi showed himself from the start to be an independent and distinctive artistic per-
sonality. He made his
fi
rst appearance in

with
Portrait of a Young Girl
, a painting of his sis-
ter Anna, now in the Hirschsprung Collection. The outline is blurred and the colour reduced to shades
of grey in which are mixed hints of green, yellow and red that closer examination shows to be a pro-
fusion of colour. Seen through the eyes of that time, it was in motif, colour and technique unusually
unostentatious in its simplicity, but despite its subdued expression it possessed an unaccustomed
assertive force. Hammershøi’s originality and talent amazed the modern artists of the time, who
caused a stir by sending the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts a letter of protest when the portrait
was not awarded the Neuhausen Prize.
The following year, painter and critic N.V. Dorph (


) described Hammershøi propheti-
cally as consciously representing something new:
It is typical of both the most recent literature and the most recent art that the moods treated
are predominantly gloomy, or perhaps it is the poetry of monotony that is presented. The
fi
ne, delicate greyish colours and the subdued, cool tones in a treatment about whose
fl
oat-
ing, gentle character there is an almost unhealthy wistfulness, a kind of controlled melan-
choly that stands in the sharpest contrast to the bold, full use of the brush and the jovial,
resplendent colours used by the painters of the Breakthrough.
¹
Soon afterwards, Hammershøi began painting architecture, and with this his range of motifs,
forms of expression and painterly preferences was
fi
xed in all its essentials.
Hammershøi grew up in the security of a bourgeois Copenhagen family, and enjoyed under-
standing and encouragement from his mother, who at an early stage ensured good art instruction for
him. He lived during a time in which the traditions inherited from the Golden Age and C.W. Eckers-
berg were still very much alive. Hammershøi attended the Academy for
fi
ve years from around

,
but it was in De frie Studieskoler he received the crucial equipment that enabled him to follow an inde-
pendent course of development. His work amazed his teacher P.S. Krøyer, who found both him and his
art rather odd but was wise enough not to try to persuade him to change tack.
It can be seen from Hammershøi’s paintings that even at an early stage he was profoundly con-
versant with older art, especially that of

th-century Holland. This was well represented in Copen-
hagen in the Royal Collection of Paintings in Christiansborg Palace (subsequently Statens Museum
for Kunst) and the private Moltke Collection, both of which had already been of great signi
fi
cance to
the artists of the Danish Golden Age. The Royal Collection of Prints and Drawings was also acces-
sible to the young artist and provided a rich source of inspiration. Hammershøi continued his stud-
ies during visits abroad: to Germany in

, to Holland and Belgium in

and to Paris in

,
where he was represented in the World Fair by four of his paintings. They made such an impression

]
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