The exhibit – Painting Tranquility: Masterworks by Vilhelm Hammershøi from The National Gallery of Denmark – is on exhibit at Scandinavia House in NYC through Saturday, February 27th. Long a fan of his moody and introspective interiors, a recent trip to NYC gave me the chance to see his works in person. Hammershøi’s paintings of interiors and streetscapes capture beauty and mystery in the moments of everyday activity. The exhibit offers an intimate look into his poetic artwork, and offered this visitor a lovely hour of quiet and calm, and a respite from busy, crowded and noisy city streets.
Hammershøi worked mainly in his native city of Copenhagen, painting portraits, architecture, interiors and the surrounding countryside, in a palette of deeply nuanced grays. Muted paintings of an austere and somber sensibility with light infused interiors, abandoned streets and abstracted, unpopulated landscapes. Rooms with a solitary figure, face and task obscured from the viewer. Portrait subjects facing the viewer, unadorned, faces stripped bare, devoid of narrative detail. Images fraught with a sense of tension, privacy and solitude. The focus on light and space, creating a dreamlike, introspective melancholy.
Outside, the grays and browns of this Vermont winter, perfectly capture the mood of Hammershøi’s paintings. A reminder that there is beauty to be found in the muted tones of a frozen landscape.