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Vilhelm Hammershøi (15 May 1864 – 13 February 1916) was a painter born in Copenhagen, Denmark. He worked mainly in his native city painting primarily portraits, architecture, landscapes, and interior scenes. He is most famous for the latter, which are painted in a muted palette.
Hammershøi was the son of a shopkeeper and had drawing lessons from the age of eight due to his artistic talent. He attended the Kongelige Akademi for de Skønne Kunster, Copenhagen, under Frederik Vermehren, between 1879 and 1884. He also studied under Frederik Rohde, Vilhelm Kyhn and Peder Severin Krøyer and enjoyed early success, particularly on an international level. In 1891 he married a colleague’s sister, Ida Ilsted, and they lived together in Copenhagen until his death in 1916. Ida is the figure to be seen in his interiors and portrait paintings, often depicted from behind. Ida is also the model in many similar works by her brother, Peter Ilsted. Peter and Vilhelm were lifelong friends, business partners, and colleagues. The MET held a famous and important exhibition of their collective works in 2001.
After his death in 1916 his work gradually sank into oblivion. Hammershøi’s dispassionately purist style was too much at odds with the disquieting experiments of the post-war avant-garde. Its stridency made Hammershøi’s enigmatically sad art seem strangely outdated. The rediscovery and reassessment of Symbolism in recent years paved the way for Hammershøi’s melancholic vision to regain its place in the consciousness of the public. Hammershøi is now not only one of the most well-known artists in Scandinavia, but he has also regained popularity in Paris and New York thanks to comprehensive retrospectives afforded him by the Musée d'Orsay and the Guggenheim Museum.