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Städel Museum acquires Vilhelm Hammershøi's Interior. Strandgade 30 (1901)
Vilhelm Hammershøi (Copenhagen 1864–1916 Copenhagen), Interior. Strandgade 30, 1901. Oil on canvas, 66 × 55 cm. Acquired in 2012. Property of Städelscher Museums-Vereins e. V. Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main.

FRANKFURT.- The Städel Museum has received an essential addition to its collection of modern art: the Städelscher Museums-Verein was able to purchase the painting Interior. Strandgade 30 (1901) by Vilhelm Hammershøi (Copenhagen 1864–1916 Copenhagen) from an English private collector for the museum. Hammershøi’s pictures of interiors from those years have never ceased to be regarded as trademark works of the Danish painter. Already one of the most celebrated artists of Europe in his time, Hammershøi continues to be seen as an outstanding artist of his era today, as various recent exhibitions – such as those in the Musée d’Orsay (Paris), the Guggenheim Museum (New York), the Royal Academy (London), or, the last in the series, the Hypo-Kulturstiftung (Munich) – evidence. Thanks to the acquisition of this important interior painting by Hammershøi made by the Städelscher Museums-Verein, the museum has further extended its impressive collection of Symbolist works, Hammershøi’s oeuvre being clearly related to the achievements of Edvard Munch, Max Klinger, and Ferdinand Hodler. On the other hand, Hammershøi’s pictures of interiors are informed by seventeenth-century Dutch painting dedicated to domestic interior scenes, which is also represented in the Städel with outstanding examples by Johannes Vermeer or Pieter Janssens Elinga. “This spectacular acquisition forges a bridge between Modernism and the old masters and is a veritable stroke of luck for the Städel. A wish harbored for a long time has been fulfilled,” says Max Hollein, Director of the Städel, about the new addition to the museum’s holdings.

Sylvia von Metzler, President of the Städelscher Museums-Verein, is very glad about the circle of friends’ successful contribution to the extension of the Städel’s holdings. “It is our main responsibility to continuously support the expansion of the collection through significant acquisitions. Since its foundation more than a century ago, the Städelscher Museums-Verein has been able to purchase almost seven hundred exhibits, among them central works by Lucas Cranach, Rembrandt, Jean-Antoine Watteau, Max Liebermann, Franz Marc, Max Beckmann, Pablo Picasso, and many other renowned artists, and entrust them to the museum as permanent loans. A wide public with visitors from Frankfurt, the Rhine Main region, and all parts of the world can thus benefit from our endeavors. Only thanks to generous donations from private sources, foundations, and companies have we been able to support the Städel and the Liebieghaus with acquisitions again and again,” remarks Sylvia von Metzler regarding the objectives of the Städelscher Museums-Verein.

Dr. Felix Krämer, head of the Städel’s collection of modern art, will present the painting to the members of the Städelscher Museums-Verein in a lecture on October 30, 2012 for the first time. The work will then become part of the permanent presentation of the Städel, where it will be on display from mid-November on. The art historian, who, as curator, was responsible for the Hammershøi exhibitions in Hamburg, London, and Tokyo, is overjoyed about the successful purchase of this “outstanding and characteristic” painting. “An essential work has been added to the Städel’s collection of modern art with Interior. Strandgade 30,” says Krämer.

Though Hammershøi’s oeuvre is highly original, it is verifiably related to Symbolism particularly in terms of its contents. Grey tones prevail in nearly all of the artist’s paintings, which do without any anecdotic details. Hammershøi is especially famous for his calm purist renderings of interiors, which constitute almost half of his production. In these works, he depicts the scantily furnished rooms of his apartment in Copenhagen with great geometric austerity. The Frankfurt interior shows the artist’s sparsely furnished dining room in the foreground, with a door jutting into it from the right. A wide open door in the end wall offers a view of a suite of rooms at the end of which light shines in through a window. Attracted by it, the viewer’s gaze is guided into the depth of the space along the floorboards. This movement is interrupted by two thresholds visually marking the middle room which is only dimly lit. There we find the artist’s wife, Ida Hammershøi, standing in the shadows with her back turned to us. Though all doors are open, she appears to be locked in by their optical extensions; she is caught right in the middle of the picture by the web of lines. The unclosed doors affect the opposite: instead of opening up a way for Ida, the doors pin her down in the center of the painting. Such visual elements of irritation are characteristic of Hammershøi’s important paintings and provide his art with a special quality. The significance of this particular representation, which the artist sold to a private collector in Copenhagen shortly after he had finished it, is also emphasized by the fact that he painted a variation of the Frankfurt interior only four years after, in 1905 – a work to be found in the collections of the Ateneum, the Finnish National Gallery, in Helsinki today.

In the meantime experts have come to take quite a close interest in Vilhelm Hammershøi’s oeuvre. Not long ago, the Metropolitan Museum in New York has purchased a Hammershøi interior. In Germany, works by the artist are to be found in the possession of the Alte Nationalgalerie in Berlin, the Lower Saxony State Museum in Hannover, Gottorf Castle, and the Hamburger Kunsthalle. In recent years, Hammershøi retrospectives were presented in the Musée d’Orsay in Paris and the Guggenheim Museum New York (both in 1997), the Hamburger Kunsthalle (2003), as well as in the Royal Academy in London and in the National Museum of Western Arts in Tokyo (both in 2008). The last exhibitions prominently featuring the Danish master’s work with great success under the title “Vilhelm Hammershøi and Europe” were to be seen in the Statens Museum for Kunst in Kopenhagen and in the Hypo-Kulturstiftung in Munich.

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