Vilhelm Hammershøi

Vilhelm Hammershøi (1864 - Copenhagen - 1916)

Parti fra Veije, Bondelœnge (Farmstead near Vejle), c.1883

Oil on canvas, 50.3 x 66.4 cm

Verso on the canvas inscribed Parti fra Vejle; Bondelœnge malet af Vilh. Hammershøi; on the stretcher labels reading Auction Arne Bruun Rasmussen 51547/30; Bruun Rasmussen 1019091/1/1/V ; and circular label 6550/

Provenance:
Johannes Carl Bock (1867-1953), Denmark
Copenhagen, Winkel & Magnussen, auction sale 380, 19-21 May 1953, lot 33
Copenhagen, Winkel & Magnussen, auction sale 383, 26-30 October 1953, lot 76
Daniel Kraemer, Copenhagen
Copenhagen, Bruun Rasmussen, auction sale 517, 23 November 1988, lot 588
Private collection, England

Exhibited:
Vilhelm Hammershøi painter of Silence, Helsinki, Amos Anderson Art Museum, 6 February - 18 May 2015

 

 

Rainer Maria Rilke commented on Hammershøi’s work in 1905: [He] is not one about whom one must speak quickly. His work is long and slow, and at whichever moment one apprehends it, it offers plentiful reasons to speak of what is important and essential in art.

This early oil by Vilhelm Hammershøi is dateable to c.1883. It is from a small group of works depicting farmsteads in the village of Veije, a seaport on the Danish coast approximately 250 kilometres west of Copenhagen. The countryside of Vejle and its farmsteads provided Hammershøi, then only nineteen and at the start of his career, with a powerful source of inspiration. The year 1883 turned out to be an important year for Hammershøi. He had received a conventional education at the Royal Academy of Arts in Copenhagen. But in 1883 he entered the Kunstnernes Frie Studieskoler [free art school] founded on the initiative of a group of liberal secessionist students dissatisfied with traditional teaching methods at the Academy. At the school he was taught by the prominent Skagen painter Peder Severin Kroyer who had recently returned from Paris. The Kunstnernes Frie Studieskoler rejected academic teaching and focused instead on contemporary French methods such as drawing after life models and painting en plein air.[1]

Rural subjects had been popular among Danish romantic painters since the 1850s. In this painting Hammershøi approaches a traditional subject in a very modern way. He dispenses with figures but indications of human preoccupations are however perceptible. The architecture of the farmsteads in their natural surroundings is the central motif but as in much of Hammershøi’s work, the painting in fact focuses on human concerns. It is about the pain of exposure and the need for shelter, about solitude in an alien world.

The composition is almost abstract. Paint is applied with short, dry brushstrokes that diffuse the contours. The lack of clear outline in combination with the subtle gradation of colour contributes to the atmospheric effect. This distinctive quality was to be Hammershøi’s hallmark.

The painting does not appear in the standard literature on Hammershøi. And until very recently its provenance was unknown. Research carried out by Jesper Svenningsen, a specialist in the history of collecting in Denmark, has however identified its provenance.[2]

hammershoi_self_portait

Fig. 1 Vilhelm Hammershøi, Self-Portrait, 1891, pastel on paper, 31.5 x 25 cm. Formerly with Daxer&Marschall

Parti fra Veije was at one time in the collection of Johannes Carl Bock (1867-1953), a noted Copenhagen art collector, pharmacologist and professor of medicine. The Bock Collection consisted of over three hundred mainly Danish artworks – paintings, drawings, lithographs and sculptures from the period 1880-1920. Bock owned no less than nine paintings, a pastel self-portrait (Fig. 1) and a drawing[3] by Hammershøi. He is known to have begun collecting around 1910.

In its formal arrangement, graphic effect and tonal subtlety the composition has a photographic quality. Photography is known to have had a major influence on contemporary painters. However Hammershøi’s painterly skills opened up different opportunities. In his carefully composed compositions he could apply colour freely and omit all elements that might distract the viewer.

 

 

 


[1] Vilhelm Hammershøi, exhib. cat., Hamburg, Hamburger Kunsthalle, 22 March-29 June 2003, pp. 9-27.

[2] Svenningsen’s research was based on the elucidation of labels and inscriptions on the stretcher.

[3] Bock was the owner of nos. 38, 104, 114, 277 and 362 in Bramsen’s catalogue raisonné of Hammershøi’s work. Bock also owned a smaller painting by Hammershøi which, like the present painting, is not included in Bramsen’s catalogue raisonné. It depicts a field and part of the farmstead shown in the present painting. Svenningsen points out that in his catalogue raisonné Bramsen omitted several works that were in the possession of Ida Hammershøi, the artist’s widow. It is, however, more than likely that he was aware of their existence.

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