- Vilhelm Hammershøi
- Interior with Ida in a White Chair
- signed with initials VH lower right
oil on canvas
Agathe and Knud Neye (purchased at the above sale); sale: Bruun Rasmussen, Copenhagen, 4 May 1976, lot 26
Sale: Christie's, London, 29 March 1990, lot 42
Purchased at the above sale by the present owner
New York, Wildenstein Gallery; Washington, The Phillips Collection: Vilhelm Hammershøi, Painter of Stillness and Light, 1983, no. 44
Copenhagen, Ordrupgaard & Paris, Musée d'Orsay: Vilhelm Hammershøi, 1997, no. 19
Sophus Michaëlis and Alfred Bramsen, Vilhelm Hammershøi, Copenhagen, 1918, no. 206, illustrated (as Stue i Strandgade 30. 1900)
Jane Abdy, 'Great Danes', in Interiors, April 1984, p. 131, illustrated
Kirk Varnedoe, Northern Light, New Haven & London, 1988, p. 110
Martin Butlin, 'Copenhagen and Paris: Vilhelm Hammershøi' in Burlington Magazine, February 1998, p. 140, fig. 66, illustrated
Painted in 1900, Interior with Ida in a White Chair was painted by Hammershøi in the rooms of his home in Strandgade 30 in Copenhagen, an address that was to play a critical role in the development of the painter's singular aesthetic. Hammershøi and his wife Ida had moved into the apartment in 1898 and would remain there until 1909. Until moving to the address his depictions of interiors had been no more important than his portraits, architectural paintings and landscapes. Once established in Strandgade, however, Hammershøi's arrangement and rearrangement of the distinctive, sparsely furnished space, bare wooden floorboards, perpendicular wall mouldings, sentinel stoves and generous painted white doors quickly became the central motif of his work.
The present work is arguably the most poetic of the series of paintings made from this viewpoint in the apartment, the soft tonalities punctuated and set into relief by the finely carved fan-shaped back of the white-painted chair in which the delicate figure of Ida sits. Compositionally, the painting relates most closely to an interior painted eight years later, showing Ida seated in the same position but on a dark wooden chair. However, stylistically and in its palette, it comes closer to Interior, of 1899, taken from a viewpiont slightly to the left, in which Ida stands by a round mahogany table, a stove in the corner, and both doors shut. As well as re-arranging the furniture for different compostions, it would appear that Hammershøi occasionally took some poetic licence as well: the metal stove so often visible in the corner is conspicuously absent in the present work, as if to emphasise the calm, uncluttered atmosphere.
Interior with Ida in a White Chair epitomises Hammershøi's remarkable ability to capture a sense of timelessness and introspective solitude, his observation of the rarefied light against the geometric forms and sharp angles of the apartment adding to the powerful effect. In his interior landscapes, 'light is the principal subject...and that light is the meagre Danish winter light, the light of grey weather quite without colour, warmth, or gaiety, albeit so rich in nuance...There is a light that pours in over the canvas and defines the space...The light is usually indirect for, of course, Hammershøi also knows that indirect light is often the most beautiful...' (Hanne Finsen and Inge Vibeke Raaschou-Nielsen, Vilhelm Hammershøi, En Retrospektiv udstilling, Copenhagen, 1981, p. 16).