"Murray is the best kind of literary biographer" – The Financial Times.
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Winner of the 2015 Basil Bunting Award for poetry

Monday, 21 July 2008

Hammershoi: the Poetry of Silence

Discovering a new artist is like discovering a new writer: a whole world of expression and consciousness suddenly opens up before you. The Royal Academy's current exhibition of the Danish artist Vilhelm Hammershoi [I can't do the oblique accent across the 'o'] is just such an opportunity. Working in the first couple of decades of the 20th Century, Hammershoi (1864-1916) painted endless interiors of his Copenhagen house - as the RA brochure puts it: "quiet, haunting interiors, their emptiness disturbed only occasionally by the presence of a solitary, graceful figure, often the artist's wife. Painted in the subtlest tones of silvery grey, these sparsely-furnished rooms exude a sense of melancholy, introspection and hypnotic quietude". The exhibition is subtitled appropriately: "The poetry of silence." As well as these expressive interiors there are some equally evocative landscapes, including a wonderful view of Montague Street in Bloomsbury 102 years ago, down the side of the British Museum. The exhibition is on until 7 September.

5 comments:

Mark Thwaite said...

I discovered Hammershoi via a blog (I forget which!) about 3 months ago. Got quite excited and read more about him in Patricia G. Berman's "In Another Light: Danish Painting In The Nineteenth Century" -- http://tinyurl.com/3nld8c -- and then found out about the exhibition. Serendipity!

Has to be the finest exhibition I've seen in an age ... wonderful, wonderful painter.

Andrew K said...

The given painting very suggestive of a more muted Vermeer.

Andrew K said...

Just doing a quick look at more of his stuff & seeing him ignored for a long time for being apparently 'dated'.
It seems Hammershoi's art could be described as timeless; his paintings appear to exist in a timeless space. They are not inhabiting a world of progress; there is no clock ticking its relentless path onwards. And contrarily perhaps art( in the broad sense) that exists precisely within a moment of time is what becomes dated- for example, I can't honestly say Picasso's Demoiselles d'Avignon appears a fresh work of art to me.

I might be reaching too far, but Dickens & Tolstoy are far more dated than Dostoevsky, while they seem to be more intimately concerned with the world that exists in time, whereas Dostoevsky's figures are only very incidentally connected to the time they inhabit. Whatever.

Max Cairnduff said...

I hadn't discovered him until this blog entry, but now that I have this looks very interesting.

Thanks for pointing this out, I'm not sure I'd have spotted it otherwise, much appreciated.

Andrew K said...

Obviously far too hasty there & currently reading Tolstoy's Resurrection & tis obvious that it is a time that'd view Tolstoy as dated that would in truth be the one of impermanence. But what I kind of meant regarding him is his characters are embedded within their times in a way Dostosvky's aren't; Dostoevsky's sense of reality being more nakedly existential.