The Northern Vermeer

The Kunsthalle in München is presenting the Danish artist Vilhelm Hammershøi (1864-1916). With more than 100 outstanding works, this retrospective not only offers an overview of his entire creative output, it also places this painter of silence and light in the context of his European contemporaries around 1900. Over 30 carefully selected paintings by artists such as Fantin-Latour, Matisse, Munch, Seurat and Whistler position the Dane in an international context. Hammershøi has traditionally been viewed as a unique figure in Danish art – a monumental presence, overshadowing his contemporaries and seeking his equal both nationally and internationally. This exhibition seeks to broaden this narrow perspective.
The presentation explores not only the essential nature of Hammershøi’s art, with its limited range of colours, his dry brushwork and the atmosphere of tension, but also the central themes of his oeuvre, such as the isolated figure in a home setting, the empty room, the abandoned city and the stark landscape. These groupings are presented in a dialogue with works by foreign artists, in order to demonstrate the prominent position occupied by Hammershøi in European painting around 1900. Apart from tracing proven sources of inspiration, the retrospective highlights mutual discourses with various artists. Thus, it becomes apparent that people throughout Europe around the turn of the twentieth century were preoccupied with common ideals, fears and desires. Particular parallels can be found in the realm of the international Symbolist movement, and relate to phenomena like moods or the sheer human existence, as opposed to purely narrative compositions.