Vilhelm Hammershøi: 'bedroom', 1890

Important painting by Hammershøi returns to Denmark

The Hirschsprung Collection has received a key work by Vilhelm Hammershøi. The work was a bequest from the English art dealer Lady Jane Abdy, who was instrumental in paving the way for the artist’s international breakthrough. Hammershøi is already very well represented at The Hirschsprung Collection, and now the collection is further bolstered by the addition of his early masterpiece Bedroom from 1890.

The painting has not visited Denmark since 1984, where it was sold at auction at Bruun Rasmussen and since acquired by the highly respected English art dealer Lady Jane Abdy, who is internationally acclaimed for her pivotal part in introducing Vilhelm Hammershøi to audiences outside Denmark.

Vilhelm Hammershøi: 'bedroom', 1890

Rejected at the juried salon

Two beds reveal that the artist is giving us a glimpse into one of the most intimate rooms of any home: the bedroom. The woman by the window is presumably Hammershøi’s sister, Anna, who was one of his most frequently used models before he became engaged to Ida Ilsted in the summer of 1890. The young woman is looking out the window, her back turned against us. A row of trees can be seen outside the window, but other than that we are told nothing about what she is looking at. The scene is set in the artist’s home in Frederiksberg Allé, where he lived with his mother and siblings up until he married Ida in early September 1891.

In 1890 Vilhelm Hammershøi submitted the painting for that year’s juried Charlottenborg exhibition. It was rejected. Presumably the intimate subject matter and the merest hint of narrative did not find favour with the jury. The following year, a new artist-run exhibition venue – Den frie Udstilling – was founded in Copenhagen, offering an alternative to Charlottenborg. Vilhelm Hammershøi would exhibit his art there in the years that followed.

The last time that the Danish public saw the painting was at an exhibition held at Kunstforeningen in Copenhagen in 1916, commemorating Hammershøi’s death. Now, 102 years later, Bedroom can once again be seen by the general public at The Hirschsprung Collection.