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19th Century European Paintings

Hammershøi: Room for the Imagination

An important work by Vilhelm Hammershøi will be offered for sale in the upcoming 19th Century European Paintings sale on the 13 December, presenting another opportunity to acquire an exceptional work by the master of atmospheric interior scenes.

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VILHELM HAMMERSHØI, WOMAN BEFORE A MIRROR, STRANDGADE 30, 1906. ESTIMATE: £400,000—600,000.

It has been quite a year for Hammershøi. So far in 2017, Sotheby's has sold two exceptional interiors by Vilhelm Hammershøi, both of Strandgade 30, the apartment in Copenhagen's mercantile district of Christianshavn he and his wife Ida occupied from 1898-1909: White Doors, Strandgade 30, 1899, offered in London in June and purchased by Copenhagen's Ordrupgaard Museum; closely followed by Interior with Woman at Piano, Strandgade 30 of 1901, which achieved a new world record price for the artist in last week's Impressionist & Modern Evening Sale in New York. And on 13 December it will be the turn of a third interior: Woman Before a Mirror, Strandgade 30 of 1906, to go under the hammer. Seen together, the trio of works cover Hammershøi’s three favourite vantage points in the apartment: the drawing room (Woman at the Piano), the dining room (White Doors), and the small living room overlooking the internal courtyard (Woman Before a Mirror). 

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THE APARTMENT BUILDING AT STRANDGADE 30, COPENHAGEN, DENMARK. 

These three views appear time and again in the artist’s oeuvre, by times with a figure, by times not, with the furniture and pictures re-arranged, or devoid of props altogether as in White Doors. Woman at the Piano is unique in the artist’s work for depicting food, the butter dish a vivid yellow accent at the heart of the composition and contrasting with the crisp iron fold in the white linen tablecloth. Woman Before a Mirror presents a strikingly close-up view of the small living room, with the upper half of the double-height casement window, and the internal door immediately to its right, often visible in views of this room, deliberately cropped to focus on the figure, the chair, and the play of light. While White Doors, stripped of all human presence, presents the viewer with an almost geometrical abstract, the arrangement of architectural lines and planes anticipating a Mondrian or a Vordemberge-Gildewart. 

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VILHELM HAMMERSHØI, INTERIOR WITH WOMAN AT PIANO, STRANDGADE 30, 1901. SOLD FOR $6,211,700.

Each room also provided unique geometries and light qualities. In Woman at the Piano the diffuse daylight falls diagonally from the left through the west-facing window, evocative of Vermeer, while in Woman Before a Mirror the small south-facing living room is illuminated primarily by the morning light, whose rays are seen filtering obliquely through the window. In White Doors, the composition is lit from behind the painter, illuminating the white doors in an even fashion. 

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INTERIOR FLOOR PLAN OF HAMMERSHØI'S APARTMENT AT STRANDGADE 30, COPENHAGEN, SHOWING THE ARTIST'S VANTAGE POINTS IN THE THREE WORKS: WHITE DOORS IN THE DINING ROOM, WOMAN AT THE PIANO IN THE DRAWING ROOM AND WOMAN BEFORE A MIRROR IN THE LIVING ROOM OVERLOOKING THE COURTYARD.

It is remarkable how Hammershøi created his own aesthetic world within an apartment, and how such a relatively small and confined space yielded such a myriad of compositional possibilities. Their silent, timeless qualities speak strongly to contemporary aesthetic sensibilities, and indeed Hammershøi now captivates collectors and the public around the world. 

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VILHELM HAMMERSHØI,WHITE DOORS, STRANDGADE 30. SOLD FOR £1,448,750.

Over the past ten years alone, works by the artist have been added to the permanent collections of several leading museums, including the Museum of Western Art, Tokyo, the Städel Museum, Frankfurt, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York and, most recently, Ordrupgaard Museum in Denmark.

 

CLICK HERE to view the full catalogue.

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