The European Paintings sale on 13 June saw five works by Vilhelm Hammershøi sell for a combined total of £4,313,450.


LONDON - I can't help feeling that it is serendipitous that the opening of the Hammershøi und Europa exhibition at the Kunsthalle der Hypo-Kulturstiftung in Munich today should fall in the very same week that three new auction records for the artist's work were achieved in our European Paintings sale on Monday, two of which went for over a million pounds.

Excellent exhibitions like this (the second leg of a show that ended at the Statens Museum in Copenhagen in May – see my previous blog) have been more than instrumental in raising this Danish painter's international profile (and his prices) to new levels. Indeed this was a hot topic of conversation among curators and collectors at last night’s lenders’ dinner, presided over by Princess Benedicta of Denmark, which I was fortunate enough to attend.

The show, curated by Roger Diederen of the Hypo-Kulturstiftung and Kasper Monrad of the Statens Museum in Copenhagen, presents Hammershøi’s work in the context of that of his contemporaries, among them Whistler, Khnopff, Fantin Latour, and Bonnard – and is beautifully presented in spacious, high-ceilinged rooms. After the formal supper I was able to steal back into the exhibition and spend 15 minutes on my own in Hammershøi’s world. It was a magical, haunting experience walking through the empty silent rooms, rather like walking through one of his paintings. And it made me realise that it is in these conditions that Hammershøi’s aesthetic needs to be enjoyed.

Another of Hammershøi’s works in the sale – Ida in an Interior, which sold for £668,450.

Monday’s auction was a key sale for Hammershøi’s prices, elevating him to the small group of non-Impressionist 19th-century painters – including fellow Scandinavian painters August Strindberg and Helene Schjerfbeck – whose works can fetch over a million pounds. I wonder what the quiet and retiring Hammershøi would make of all this publicity. There is something innately private, untouchable, about his interiors, and in a way I am glad they have gone into private hands where they will be enjoyed and cherished for those qualities.