Vilhelm Hammershoi Interior
19th Century European Paintings

Exploring Light and Line in Hammershøi's Interiors

By Nina Wedell-Wedellsborg

O n 28 November, we were honoured to present Vilhelm Hammershøi’ s Interior, Strandgade 30, a highlight from our upcoming 19th Century European Paintings sale in London on 12 December, at the headquarters of internationally renowned Danish architectural firm Henning Larsen in Copenhagen, to an audience of over eighty guests.

Our host, Design Principal and Partner at Henning Larsen, Louis Becker, and our very own Claude Piening, Head of 19th Century European Paintings, engaged in a spirited panel discussion about the artist, entitled Line & Light: Vilhelm Hammershøi’s Legacy and Influence on Contemporary Architecture, against the airy, clean lines of Henning Larsen’s central atrium.

By his own account, Louis Becker’s designs, like those of the late Henning Larsen himself, take inspiration from Denmark’s master painter of light, just as designers — like the late Danish-American Jens Risom, whose painting by Hammershøi, White Doors, was offered at Sotheby’s in 2017 and sold to Ordrupgaard — did too.

Asked what qualities of Hammershøi’s paintings in particular struck a chord with him, Louis Becker focused on the particular quality of soft, diffused daylight that pervades his interiors and which he tries to emulate in his own work. Surveys, he says, have proved conclusively that peoples’ well-being and productivity in the workplace is enhanced by subtle natural light. The roof of the atrium is a case in point, remodelled using large diagonal skylights angled to prevent direct sunlight, yet bathing the offices below in an even and constant light.

Nina Wedell-Wedellsborg Claude Piening and Louis Becker at Henning Larsen
Nina Wedell-Wedellsborg, Head of Sotheby’s Denmark; Claude Piening, Head of 19th Century European Paintings; and Louis Becker, Design Principal and Partner at Henning Larsen in conversation.

Louis’s observations get to the very crux of what makes Hammershøi’s aesthetic so appealing to modern audiences, a point elaborated on by Claude. The calm light, clean lines, and quietude of Hammershøi’s interiors not only evoke a sense of timeless beauty that appeals to collectors and aficionados of Old Masters and contemporary art alike, but a good feng shui in an increasingly cluttered and fast-paced world overcome by bright lights and white noise.

For some twenty years now, thanks to high-profile international exhibitions and record-breaking prices at public auction, his unique vision has truly transcended his local Danish audience and market, and made this painter of seemingly unsensational interiors something of a superstar. Already, further exhibitions are planned, including Hammershøi and His World at the Musée Jacquemart André in Paris from March to July 2019.

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