Strandgade 30, where the artist and his wife lived from 1899-1909, occupies a deservedly celebrated role in Hammershøi’s oeuvre as both the subject and setting of his most important interiors. The present work represents the culmination of a particularly iconic motif which obsessed the artist like no other among his subjects: the small living room at the back of their first-floor flat, with its window overlooking the courtyard. With or without a figure, by bright sunlight or by moonlight, with curtains, furniture and other signs of domestic life or stripped to the bare essentials, in all instances both window and door are depicted closed, sealing the viewer in Hammershøi’s hermetic world and providing the perfect setting for the artist to explore light and line.
The composition is the basis of at least nine significant oils of 1900-1909 including the present work, five of which are in public collections in Scandinavia, London and New York. The influence of interiors of the Dutch Golden Age on Hammershøi, particularly the work of Vermeer, is well-documented, and one of the first works in this series was apparently inspired by a painting by Pieter Janssen Elinga in the Alte Pinakothek, Munich, of which Hammershøi owned a print (fig. 1, formerly attributed to Pieter de Hooch). Other prominent works in the series include Sunbeams of 1900 (Ordrupgaard, Copenhagen); Interior with Two Candles of 1904 (Private Collection, sold at Sotheby’s in May 2012); The Coin Collector of the same year, featuring the artist’s brother Svend (Nasjonalmuseet, Oslo); Interior of 1906 (Tate Gallery, London), and Moonlight, Strandgade 30, acquired by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York in 2012.
In the present work, of which a second version of similar dimensions also exists, the artist’s wife Ida is seen from behind, with the clouded window placed centrally. Ida’s expression is similarly (and typically) inscrutable – although ostensibly engaged in knitting, the position of her head suggests her gaze is elsewhere, there seems insufficient light in the room to illuminate her work, and the subtly-captured shadows of the chair legs are strangely perpendicular to the light filtering through the sealed window, contributing to the mysterious and introspective character of the composition. Painted shortly before the artist and his wife were obliged to leave the address for another flat in Copenhagen, the present work is among the last he painted at Strandgade 30, and represents a culmination of this iconic subject.