It’s not news that the Impressionist and Modern category has been starved for inventory at auction. Mostly this is a function of collectors having little or no need to sell works. To deal with this all three auction houses have begun to mix periods and genres within sales. Recently, Sotheby’ went a step further to merge the Latin American department with Contemporary art’s sales.
Now the auction house is announcing the sale of a significant Vilhelm Hammershoi painting in the Impressionist and Modern art Evening sale:
Painted in 1901, Interior with Woman at Piano, Strandgade 30 is distinguished by its refined palette of chromatic greys, spare compositional elements, and a mesmeric psychological complexity. Estimated at $2,500,000-3,500,000 (DKK 15.8-22.2 million), the painting will come to auction at Sotheby’s in New York on 14 November 2017 as a highlight of the Evening Sale of Impressionist & Modern Art. In the twenty-five-year period since the work was last offered on the market, Hammershøi has been the subject of numerous retrospective exhibitions in Europe, Asia and America, prompting overdue recognition of one of Denmark’s most innovative and celebrated artists.
Hammershøi’s almost spiritualist interest in isolation is most powerfully and consistently articulated in his iconic interiors. In 1898 the artist and his wife Ida moved into their apartment at Strandgade 30 in Copenhagen, where they had the walls painted a cool grey, a colour ideally suited to absorb and reflect the distinct Nordic light, and the woodwork a stark white, to provide a brilliant framing device. In a rare interview from 1907, Hammershøi explained his preference in developing compositional structure: “What makes me choose a motif are… the lines, what I like to call the architectonic attitude in the picture. And then the light, naturally.” The compositional strength of Interior with Woman at Piano, Strandgade 30 is grounded in its decisive use of horizontal and vertical lines.
His reduction of the objects to their barest elements anticipates the introspective still lifes of Giorgio Morandi. While Hammershøi has often been viewed as an isolated figure within the field of Danish and European Art, his paintings maintain a clear dialogue with those of James McNeill Whistler, Edvard Munch, and Fernand Khnopff, and a resonance can be felt not only in the works of Morandi, but also Gerhard Richter.