Art Gallery of Ontario acquires Hammershøi painting-opening exhibition in April
The late 19th/early 20th century Danish artist Vilhelm Hammershøi’s paintings, especially his domestic interiors, are idyllic, sublime and quietly beautiful; and now the Art Gallery of Ontario has become the first public institution in Canada to own one. According to a press announcement from the museum: “To celebrate, the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) will host a critically-acclaimed exhibition of Hammershøi’s work this spring, organized by the National Gallery of Denmark. Painting Tranquility: Masterworks by Vilhelm Hammershøi runs from April 16 to July 3, 2016.”
As noted in the press release:
Born in Copenhagen in 1864 and trained at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, Hammershøi painted everyday scenes, lacking in detail and narrative, but rich in light and atmosphere. At odds with his contemporaries, his works on canvas and in charcoal include unpopulated landscapes and cityscapes, portraits and spare, sunlight-infused interiors for which he earned the title “de stille stuers maler” (the painter of tranquil rooms). Described by the National Gallery of Denmark’s Director Mikkel Bogh as a “painter of pauses, silences and in-between spaces,” Hammershøi’s reclusive personality and contemplative works made him a favourite amongst poets and writers. Highlights of the exhibition include Interior. An old Stove (1888); View of Christenborg Palace. Late Autumn (1890-92); and A Room in the Artists Home in Standgade, with the Artist’s Wife (1902).
Originally curated by the National Gallery of Denmark’s senior research curator, Kasper Monrad, the installation will be overseen by Lloyd DeWitt, the AGO’s curator of European art. At the centre of the exhibition is the recent AGO acquisition, Hammershøi’s Interior with Four Etchings, from 1905. A portrait of the artist’s wife in their Copenhagen apartment, this painting has been largely unseen since its creation, and held in a private collection. The AGO was able to delay the painting from being exported and purchased it in early 2015. It’s the first work by a Scandinavian avant-garde artist to enter the AGO’s European collection, and its acquisition was made possible with the assistance of a Moveable Cultural Property grant from the Department of Canadian Heritage under the terms of the Cultural Property Export and Import Act, 2015.
Widely celebrated during his lifetime, Hammershøi’s reputation declined rapidly following his death a century ago in 1916. Rediscovered in the 1980s, he is again in ascendance, internationally acclaimed by critics and collectors alike for his strikingly modern interiors, haunting landscapes and distinctive portraits.
“The works in this exhibition clearly show us the exacting skill and serene poetry that made Hammershøi Denmark’s most famous artist,” says Lloyd DeWitt. “It is a wonderful opportunity to have the remarkable works from the National Gallery of Denmark travel to Canada, and we are delighted to supplement this exhibition with our own exciting new work. The acquisition of Interior with Four Etchings has been a great accomplishment for the AGO, and we are grateful for the assistance of the Department of Canadian Heritage who worked with us to keep this extraordinary artwork in Canada.”