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Sotheby's to sell one of the most important works by Vilhelm Hammershøi at auction
Sotheby's employee Jack Barton, left, adjusts one of his white gloves before posing for photographs with his colleague Laura Thatcher with the painting "Interior with Ida in a White Chair" by the Danish artist Vilhelm Hammershoi at the Sotheby's auction house in London, Friday, Nov. 18, 2011. The piece, which is estimated to fetch 500,000 to 700,000 pounds ($791,252 to $1,107,753 and 582,638 to 815,694 euro) is one of three headline paintings in the Scandinavian part of Sotheby's forthcoming sale of European paintings on November 22. AP Photo/Matt Dunham.

LONDON.- Sotheby's Scandinavian sale on Tuesday, 22 November 2011 will be headlined by Interior with Ida in a White Chair by Vilhelm Hammershøi (1864-1916). Estimated at £500,000-700,000, the painting is one of the most important works by the artist ever to be offered at auction and comes to the market from a Private Danish Collection. Painted in 1900 in the artist’s home at Strandgade 30 in Copenhagen, it depicts his wife Ida. A sublime distillation of Hammershøi’s artistic concerns during his lifetime, the painting epitomises his remarkable ability to capture a sense of timelessness and introspective solitude.

Interior with Ida in a White Chair can be considered the most poetic of the series of paintings made from this viewpoint in the apartment. The viewer’s eye is gently led from the graceful curve of Ida’s back and the finely carved fan-shaped back of the white chair in which she sits, absorbed in her activity, to the central hallway and through to the light-filled room in this distance, with its expanse of window. The rarefied light is the principal subject here, in all its nuanced richness.

Commenting on the picture, Claude Piening, Senior Director in Sotheby’s European Paintings Department, said: “This painting ranks among Hammershøi’s finest of Strandgade 30. It is of particular interest because it is among the first of the interiors of the apartment that would feature so centrally in the artist’s oeuvre. Vilhelm and his wife Ida moved to the address in 1898 and would spend ten happy years there. This painting was completed two years after their arrival.”

Strandgade 30 was to play a critical role in the development of Hammershøi’s singular aesthetic. His arrangement and rearrangement of the distinctive, sparsely furnished space, bare wooden floorboard, perpendicular wall mouldings, sentinel stoves and painted white doors quickly became the central motif of his work once he had established himself in the premises. In the present work, the stove is conspicuously absent, as if to emphasise the calm, uncluttered atmosphere.

Sotheby’s Scandinavian Sale will also present two further paintings by Hammershøi from different Danish private collections, including an important rediscovered work. Svend Hammershøi. Forarbejde til Møntsamleren (Svend Hammershøi. Study for the Coin Collector) is a preparatory study for the artist’s 1904 masterpiece Møntsamleren (The Coin Collector), in the National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design, Oslo. The sitter was the artist's younger brother Svend, a painter and ceramicist. One of only three known studies for the Oslo painting, and the only study to feature the figure, the work offers a fascinating insight into the artist’s working methods, while at the same time evoking the distinctive sense of seclusion and introspection that characterises Hammershøi’s work. The painting is estimated at £30,000-50,000.

Interior by Hammershøi, painted in 1890, displays a remarkable intimacy and informality, and provides a fascinating insight into the creative process underlying the artist’s more studied oils. The light, free brushstokes are in marked contrast to the measured calm of his large-scale oils. The painting exudes a playfulness and joie de vivre with its bright light and breezy atmosphere, reflective of the artist’s personal happiness and professional success at the time. By 1890, his career was in its ascent, following the exhibition of four works in the Danish section of the 1889 Exposition Universelle in Paris and praise from French critic and collector Théodore Duret, who favoured Hammershøi over any other contemporary Danish painter. In June he became engaged to Ida Ilsted and they married the following year. Interior is estimated at £100,000-150,000.

Commenting on the sale of the paintings, Nina Wedell-Wedellsborg, Head of Sotheby’s Denmark, said: “I am thrilled that Sotheby’s has consigned three works by Hammershøi from three different Danish private collections and that these important paintings will be exhibited to an international audience. The potential for a world record for the artist is equally exciting.”

The art of Vilhelm Hammershøi represents the last great flourishing of the Danish ‘Golden Age’, in which intellectual production in science, philosophy, literature, and the arts had bloomed in Denmark during the 19th century. With studies at the Danish Royal Academy of Fine Arts, Hammershøi was immersed in the art of the Golden Age painters Eckersberg, Købke and Hansen, while his training at De frie Studieskoler, where Edvard Munch, Helene Schjerfbeck, and Harriet Becker also studied, introduced him to the avant-garde. Living and working throughout his life in Copenhagen, in his observation of light and space he was deeply influenced by James McNeill Whistler, whose work he first saw when exhibiting two of his own paintings at the Exposition Universelle in Paris in 1889. He has recently been the subject of intense art historical interest, following seminal retrospectives at the Guggenheim in New York in 1998, and the Royal Academy in London and Museum of Western Art in Tokyo in 2008. The Staten Museum for Kunst in Copenhagen is to stage a major exhibition called “Hammershøi and Europe” from 4 February to 20 May 2012.

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