Loeb Danish Ardt Collection - page 159

on the far-sighted French critic Théodore Duret (


) that he visited Copenhagen the following
year to see more.
Hammershøi’s highly developed visual talents allowed him quickly and e
ff
ortlessly to perceive the
essential qualities in both older and more recent art. His preference was work of simplicity in com-
position and artistic e
ff
ects, especially ancient Greek art, the Dutch artists Vermeer van Delft (


) and Pieter de Hooch (


), and, among the moderns, James McNeill Whistler (


),
a reproduction of one of whose paintings had attracted his interest in

. Sympathetic insight and
enthusiasm, however, he was well able himself to exploit for his own purposes.
Two major events took place in

. He married Ida (


), a sister of the painter Peter
Ilsted and whom he then very frequently used as his model. And he became a co-founder of
Den Frie
Udstilling
, with which he remained for the rest of his life. A contributory reason for the establishment
of this
fi
rst alternative periodic exhibition was that his painting
Syende ung pige (Young Girl
Sewing)
had been rejected by the Charlottenborg exhibition in

.
Accompanied by Ida, he spent a considerable time in Paris, then proceeded to Tuscany, where he
became familiar with Florentine art. After this experience, Hammershøi painted three ambitious
fi
gure paintings,
Artemis
,


(Statens Museum for Kunst),
Tre unge kvinder (Three Young
Women),

(Ribe Kunstmuseum) and
Fem portrætter (Five Portraits),


(Thielska Gal-
leriet, Stockholm), important works that are still the subject of a great deal of discussion. Though he
produced relatively few large-scale compositions, Hammershøi painted a large number of simpler pic-
tures, portraits, landscapes and interiors before his death in

at the age of only

. Thanks to his
participation in the major Scandinavian and international exhibitions in Berlin

, St. Petersburg

, the London Guildhall

, Brighton

and New York the same year, there was a considerable
interest in Hammershøi’s work at the time.
It is the interpretation of Hammershøi’s work that presents the greatest challenge. What is avail-
able in the way of factual information on his life and work provides no answer to the most burning
questions raised by his art. The important critic and museologist Karl Madsen (


), who was
one of his early champions, formulated the aim of the painters of the Breakthrough with the dictum
“more truth, greater seriousness, profounder honesty.” This also
fi
ts Hammershøi, but it is not the
whole truth, and Madsen is no more informative in an article he wrote about the artist in

.
²
Ham-
mershøi was an aesthete, he was exclusive not only in his art, but also personally, and he was not
ambitious for public honors.
Hammershøi’s artistic individualism is typical of the age, and his paintings contain features that
are met in the writing of author Jens Peter Jacobsen (


), who gained signi
fi
cance outside Den-
mark in the

’s. Hammershøi is regarded by most people as a Symbolist.
³
His paintings are expe-
rienced as poetical and emotionally charged. It is typical that, irrespective of motif, he creates an
enigmatic atmosphere, an intellectual tension that invites interpretation, such as was provided by the
literary historian Henrik Wivel in

when he viewed Hammershøi’s art as expressing a new intel-
lectual idealism. Others have pointed to similarities with a painter from Hammershøi’s own time, the
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