Originally published in the Fall 2011 Quarterly issue of Artwrit.
Vilhelm Hammershøi (1864-1916) is one of few Danish painters to have gained considerable reputation throughout Europe during his lifetime. While acknowledgement within Denmark was scarce until the mid-twentieth century, critics and poets from around Europe—famously including Rilke, who intended to write an entire book on the Dane’s work—recognized in his paintings an unusual power to portray deeply unique emotional and spiritual states using a minimum of motifs and color. He had no proper studio, using his home as the center for his artistic production, both productively and inspirationally. Virtually all of his interiors are near-photo realistic depictions of his personal space and, in the case of his portraits, his wife. The result is an oeuvre of unusual personal intimacy, seemingly enabling access to his inner life.