Intimate Interiors / by Geoff Harrison

The understated, yet intimate paintings of Danish artist Vilhelm Hammershoi (1864-1916).  In an article published in the Guardian a few years ago, Julian Bell describes the artist as a master of demure conservatism who hit upon a modernist way of looking.  There is mystery, the viewer is being beckoned to enter these scenes, yet there is nothing to hold on to.

"Your curiosity is lured into that enclosed hall, yet your attention is held back - left dangling over the bare floorboards with their scuffed varnish, which is the nearest to an indicator of commonplace living and everyday usage that the picture is prepared to provide. A tantalising juggle with emptiness."

Author Alain De Botton argues that Hammershoi was selling an appreciation of the everyday.  Yet we are being "seduced by the nape of a lovely female neck, the delicate strands of unruly hair and the carefully calculated angle of the head, to get us to like a person and enter their imaginative world."

Hammershoi enjoyed great success with sellout shows in Berlin and London in the first decade of the 20th century.