Friday, 25 July 2008

Vihelm Hammershoi

The “Vihelm Hammershoi” exhibition is currently being held in the Royal Academy of Art. The aim of the exhibition is to feature over 60 paintings spanning the career of this celebrated Danish artist. In order to achieve this aim, the exhibition focuses on the order of time as well as giving us information about him with the change of the times. It is structured into Portrait, Interior, Architecture and Landscape.

There are several aspects of the exhibition which I found interesting.
Firstly, I enjoyed in Portrait and Interior paintings among his works. In particular, I was very impressed by his two Interior paintings, “Interior with Woman at Piano”(1901) and “Interior,
Young Woman seen From Behind”(1904) because I felt as if I was one of the s
tructural elements in his Interior paintings. The Royal Academy of Arts site has many quotation from his contemporary, the journalist Tom Lubbock: “His art is full of refusals such as back –turned woman, revealing nothing of her mind etc”. Like Tom Lubbock said, Hammershoi seemed to focus on You and I. In other words, I believe his paintings need an outsider badly.

In addition to these aspects, it was quite attractive to look absent-mindedly at his wife, Ida’s back in his paintings. According to a report of RA Magazine Summer 2008, “Vihelm Hammershoi always was a puzzle”. Not only his life, But his paintings are wrapped in mystery. Even I felt this was both humorous and ambiguous.

Moreover, particularly interesting was “A portrait of a Young Woman”(1885), which showed Hammershoi’s sister Anna. My greatest interest was her face. Her face is unexcitable, silent and peaceful. Although she looks pure, I thought she was a mature girl. This painting was associated in my mind with my best painting “The girl with the pearl Earring”(Johannes Vermeer, 1665). Both of them impressed me emotionally.

Although these were quite interesting, I could not get excited about Architecture and Landscape paintings. The Tony Award winning designer Bob Crowley speaks of the ‘deep melancholy’ present in Hammershoi’s works. I get a feeling of loneliness and coldness while I am looking at the Architecture and Landscape works of Hammershoi. In the Internet article, when Tom Lubbock, a journalist, talks about “the power of negatives, the unsaid and the unshown”, that is certainly Hammershoi’s pitch.

On the whole, I found the exhibition to be interesting and stimulating. Tom Lubbock says that you may well not have heard of him, but when you come across his work, you will wonder why you haven’t. I completely agree that he said. Hammershoi should be better known.
Generally speaking, any work of art seems to depend on how much we know about the artist’s personal life. Hammershoi’s works certainly have me food for thought. And I am even more convinced that he is someone special. It seems I’m not alone. According to Michael
Palin, a guardian, “Last month, one of his interiors with Ida was sold at sotheby’s for a world record price of £340,000”.

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