Vilhelm Hammershøi was born in 1864, and his mother realized quite soon, that her son was special. He started drawing at a very early age, and he had his first education, when he was eight years old. He learned about perspective and shading and all the things, a painter needs to know about, and his proud mother saved his sketch pads and – later in life – all the newspaper clippings and notes about the famous son’s work.
Some of Hammershøi’s teachers were well-known Danish artists like Vilhelm Kyhn, P. S. Krøyer and Frederik Vermehren, and even they didn’t wish to influence their pupil too much, because Hammershøi had his own very special style from the start.
When he was twenty-one, he exhibited for the first time, and his “portrait of a young girl” was received with mixed feelings. Some were overwhelmingly enthusiastic, while others believed that the light was all wrong, and that the motive was depressing. The girl was his sister, Anna, and both she and his brother Sven were often used as models.
Although several of his paintings were discarded in subsequent exhibitions, Hammershøi continued stubbornly and tirelessly to paint, and in 1889, four of his paintings were selected to represent Denmark at the World Exhibition in Paris. This exhibition established the artist’s fame, and consecutive annual exhibitions in Copenhagen confirmed it.
Vilhelm Hammershøi was primarily known for his interior pictures and then the portraits, but he also painted landscapes, buildings and streets. First and foremost, Copenhagen streets, because he lived there most of his life, but when he and Ida spent some months in London, he produced one of his most wonderful pictures: A foggy street – Montaque Street – near the British Museum.
Hammershøi has always been in a class of his own in Danish art. His gentle pictures give the impression of tranquility and harmony and the peaceful atmosphere spreads to the audience in the most comfortable way.
Extract from the Emag By Mia Folkmann No 1.
HAMMERSHØI AND EUROPA at The National Gallery of Denmark until May 20, 2012.
Photo: © National Gallery of Denmark SNK