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Vilhelm Hammershøi

Vilhelm Hammershøi was born on 15 May 1864 in Copenhagen. His parents were Frederikke, née Rentzmann, and the merchant Christian Hammershøi. Hammershøi began to draw and received tuition from the age of 8.

In 1879, Hammershøi was accepted at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts in Copenhagen. He remained a student at the Academy until spring 1884, with Frederik Vermehren amongst his teachers.

In 1883 Hammershøi became a student at The Free Arts Schools with Peder Severin Krøyer as his teacher. Krøyer remarked to his colleague Kristian Zahrtmann: "I have a student whose paintings are rather strange. I don't understand him, but I think he's going to be important so I'm trying not to influence him".

Hammershøi made his debut at Charlottenborg's Spring Exhibition in 1885 with Portrait of a Young Girl (fig. 30). The picture caused a great stir as its composition and colouring distinguished itself from the other works at the exhibition.

Another picture, Young Girl Sewing (cat. 3), was rejected by the Charlottenborg exhibition in 1888, and was exhibited instead at an alternative show. However, the following year the picture was awarded a bronze medal at the World Exhibition in Paris. The rejection of Hammershøi's work in Copenhagen influenced his involvement in setting up "The Free Exhibition" in 1891.

In 1890, Hammershøi became engaged to Ida Ilsted (1869-1949), the sister of Hammershøi's friend, the painter Peter Ilsted. They married and went on honeymoon to Paris. The couple had no children. Throughout the rest of their lives together they travelled widely, London was a particular favourite. Here they visited their friend, the concert pianist Leonard Borwick.

In 1893, Hammershøi painted his first monumental work, the large, symbolic Artemis (The Danish National Gallery). The work received mixed reviews, but the young Symbolist painters were enthusiastic.

In autumn 1898, the couple moved to a flat at Strandgade 30, where they lived until 1909. During this period Hammershøi painted a number of interiors from the flat. He painted very few pictures during his many foreign trips, but the simply furnished rooms in his home were a major source of inspiration. Hammershøi often spent the summers outside the city, where he painted landscapes.

In 1900 the first retrospective exhibition of Hammershøi's work was held at the Copenhagen Art Society. The collector, and Hammershøi's patron, Alfred Bramsen compiled the first directory of Hammershøi's works to tie in with the exhibition.

At the international art exhibition in Rome in 1911, Hammershøi was awarded first prize of 10,000 lire, and as a result was encouraged by the Uffizis to paint a self- portrait for their collection.

On 13 February 1916, Hammershøi died after a long illness. He was buried at Vestre Kirkegård in Copenhagen.

Has participated in

Hammershøi and Dreyer