Loeb Danish Ardt Collection - page 179

riors. Among the countless motifs are wall surfaces and parts of rooms with diverse amounts of furniture
and numbers of paintings and objects. Sometimes the essential motifs are the doors, either open or closed,
or the view through several open doors revealing light-
lled rooms in the depths of the picture. The half-
open door was a much-loved motif in antiquity and was also frequently used by another famous Dutch
painter, Pieter de Hooch (
). When it is a question of composition, Hammershøi chooses to paint
either frontally facing a wall, which is then seen parallel to the plane of the picture, or he chooses a corner
in the room and then employs two-point perspective, and he alternates between a perspective from a stand-
ing and sitting position. His wife, Ida, shown in some of the pictures, always as a lone
gure, always dressed
in very few colours and always sitting or standing motionless.
These two pictures were painted in the same room, the central living room overlooking Strandgade,
where we see the corner with the stove from two di
erent angles. In
Interior of Woman Placing Branches in a
oor represents a signi
cant part of the picture, and here the perspective shows that the painter has
been standing. In
Interior, Strandgade 30
Hammershøi has been seated, something that supports the more
intimate character of this painting. The tables are di
erent, without doubt chosen on the basis of the
respective compositional intentions. Ida Hammershøi, wearing the same black dress and white apron, has
acted as the model in both paintings: in one, she is putting some sprays in a vase, while in the other, she is
putting a china cup on the mahogany table. The bowl supported from the hip is one Hammershøi painted
several times; the motif is well known in art history. The colour of the walls is di
erent in the two paint-
ings, yellowish in one, bluish in the other, which presumably merely tells us that Hammershøi was fairly
free in his treatment of reality. We gain a good sense of the
ne light streaming in through the windows
from the street, especially in
Interior, Strandgade 30,
where it illuminates the white-painted doors, and where
the jug (from the Royal Porcelain Manufactory), the cup and Ida’s dress are re
ected in the polished surface
of the table and give plasticity to the thick material, which was no doubt made of felt, usually placed
beneath a table cloth. An
variant of the motifs was shown in the New York exhibition as no.
sen & Michaëlis no.
, owner the Tate Gallery, London).
Hammershøi’s Strandgade paintings can be viewed as one or several sequences of motifs all with the
same objective—of exploring the light and the room. They are pictorial constructions always with their
emphasis on the static. This is substantiated by a comment from the artist himself, one of the few he made
about his method: “What makes me choose a motif is just as much the lines in what I will call the picture’s
architectonic posture. And then the light, of course.”
Looking at the composition, it is impossible to avoid regarding the Strandgade paintings as related to
photography. It is quite obvious that like his contemporaries (Degas is the most famous) Hammershøi had
long since acquired what people of the time called “the photographic view,” i.e. he worked by applying
apparently random cuts to his motif. That he also used photographs as guides for his paintings is con
by a few surviving examples, including a scored network on a portrait photograph of Ida, which became the
painted portrait from
If we look at the Strandgade interiors as a whole, it seems more likely that Hammershøi worked with
other optical apparatus. On the one hand he might have used the easily transportable camera lucida, which
projects the image directly down on to the canvas. Or it might be imagined that he examined his motifs and
planned the general arrangement with the help of a camera obscura or the focusing screen of a large cam-
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