Hammershoi – Royal Academy of Arts

By | 22 July 2008

Thoughts: Hammershol – The poetry of silence. Having declined an audio guide, half expecting that I’d key the start and hear ‘welcome to Hammershol, the poetry of silence, shhh’ followed by 45mins of nothing, I headed off to view the exhibition. Shhh indeed, grey, brown interiors, quiet, repressed, he seemed mainly to paint empty rooms, doors and windows. why all the doors and windows? A way of keeping you in or letting you out? but there is poetry in his silence.

About: He seems to have painted every room in his home and every door and every window! from time to time capturing his wife as she manoeuvres her way around the house and occasionally breaking out to paint an outdoor scene. Wilhelm Hammershoi was described as shy, reserved and lead an uneventful life. Born in Copenhagen in 1864, son of a merchant. Married, no children, became internationally known in 1900, died of cancer in 1916.

But this is really quite a beautiful exhibition. I got a sense of his secluded life, In an essay written it was noted that conversation was rendered difficult by Hammershoi’s persistent silence. He led the life of a recluse and avoided appearing in public.

Should you go? Yes! somewhere between Whistler and Hopper I heard someone say. In stillness yes, not colour. Hopper commands colour beautifully. Hammershoi is a master of the grey, brown wash – 71 paintings following his career and here is the first major exhibition of his work in Britain. They are repressed but hope shines though that painted door or that window and I have decided that the door is open.

…and on exit I was told that his name was pronounced Hammers hoi. No Shhh at all, if only I had taken an audio guide.