Danish artist Vilhelm Hammershoi’s 1912 painting, Interior with an Easel, Bredgade 25, will go on view Tuesday at the J. Paul Getty Museum, its new owner.
“Interior with an Easel, Bredgade 25 is a characteristically luminous and enigmatic image that encapsulates Hammershoi’s particular visual poetry,” said Timothy Potts, director of the J. Paul Getty Museum. “Hammershoi’s carefully orchestrated compositions are defined by their sparse atmospheric mood, using a few familiar pieces of furniture and the fall of light through a window to create some of the most beautiful, contemplative interiors in the history of painting.
“This work is especially important for its play on the art of painting itself: it is a painting about paintings — one seen from the back on the easel, the other hanging on the wall. All that is missing, as so often in Hammershoi’s work, is the human protagonist, in this case the artist himself,” he said.
“There could be no more appropriate subject for the Getty Museum, or any museum, and we are delighted to be able to add this extraordinary work by one of the most important Scandinavian artists of the late 19th and early 20th centuries to our collection. Hammershoi clearly saw himself in the tradition of old master painters (he is often touted as `the modern Vermeer’) and I am sure visitors will see many resonances with our paintings by other great northern European artists, such as Caspar David Friedrich, Fernand Khnopff, and Edvard Munch,” Potts said.
Hammershoi’s career was cut short by his death from cancer at the age of 51. His work fell into relative obscurity and for much of the 20th century he was scarcely known outside of Denmark. Over the last few decades, however, there has been a resurgence of interest in Hammershoi’s work internationally, as numerous exhibitions in Europe, Asia, and the United States have attested.
His compositions’ rigorous geometry, sober palette, and lack of sentimental anecdote appeal greatly to modern sensibilities, while the domestic settings and sophisticated light effects call to mind the European old master tradition, and particularly Dutch seventeenth-century painting, The Getty said in a statement.
Interior with an Easel, Bredgade 25 — Bredgade 25 was the address of Hammershoi’s final apartment — “is a work of great power and stark beauty, mesmerizing in its sense of stillness and silence. All the elements of a great Hammershoi are here: the masterful rendering of the cool Nordic light, the exquisitely nuanced tonal harmonies, the geometric rigor of the planar composition, the shimmering weave of small, textured brushstrokes, all working to transfigure the mundane into something haunting and poetic,” said Davide Gasparotto, senior curator of paintings at the Getty Museum. “Hammershoi is one of Denmark’s most fascinating painters and the renewed interest and scholarship that his work is now receiving is well overdue.”
Interior with an Easel, Bredgade 25 is 31 x 27 5/18 inches. It was never exhibited in public before this year, according to The Getty, which has placed it in its West Pavilion galleries.
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