The Frye Art Museum is honored to present masterworks by Vilhelm Hammershøi, one of Denmark's most distinguished Symbolist painters, on the one hundredth anniversary of his death.
A master of atmospheric and psychological interiors, Hammershøi (1864–1916) was admired by his contemporaries in Europe and the United States including German poet and art critic Rainer Maria Rilke (1875–1926) and American artist John Singer Sargent (1856–1925). In 1889, Hammershøi was awarded a medal at the Exposition Universelle in Paris, and his work was recognized with the Grand Prize at the International Exhibition in Rome in 1911. In 1909, on the occasion of his participation in the Tenth International Exhibition of the Munich Künstlergenossenschaft (Artists' Association), German critic Georg Biermann described Hammershøi as a “modern Nordic Vermeer.”
Together with renowned Norwegian artist Edvard Munch (1863–1944), Hammershøi participated in a major exhibition of contemporary Scandinavian art in the United States. Held under the auspices of the American-Scandinavian Society, the exhibition premiered in New York in December 1912 before traveling to Buffalo, New York; Toledo, Ohio; Chicago; and Boston. The exhibition catalogue describes Hammershøi's “subdued ambience of tonality, and permeating quietude of spirit” as well as the “tense and tremulous subjectivity which these incomparable little [picture] panels reveal.” The author concluded that Hammershøi's “interiors and genre studies are quite without parallel in the province of modern artistic achievement.”
Employing a strict palette of colors, Hammershøi depicted the interior of his apartment at Strandgade 30, Copenhagen, and the streets of the Danish capital, as devoid of life. Chronicles of Solitude places these enigmatic canvases alongside masterworks in the Frye Founding Collection, including those of German Symbolist Franz von Stuck, illuminating the larger European context in which Hammershøi worked. In 1891, Hammershøi cofounded Den Frie Udstilling (The Free Exhibition), an independent, jury-free exhibition established in opposition to aesthetic principles upheld by the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Copenhagen. The following year, in 1892, artists of the Munich Secession, including Franz von Stuck, separated from the Munich Künstlergenossenschaft in a similar rebellion against conservative ideals.