Although he achieved his first successes with unconventional portraits, the Danish painter Vilhelm Hammershoi (1864-1916) brought an equally fresh perspective to landscape. What is, in fact, a barn built into the ground becomes through the artist's vision an abstraction of angles andf light.
Three remarkable images, all executed during the summer of 1883, form a suite that makes a vivid impression of an austere rural aesthetic discovered in situ. Bright light becomes compatible with mystery when buildings and even entire vistas are cropped. Thanks to the introduction of photography eccentric cropping became a popular tool for painters at the turn of the last century and Hammerstein seems to be an early experimenter.
Our view of the farmhouse is what one might see from close up. Then again, looking at The Farm we need time to orient ourselves to the angle of vision Hammershoi sets before us. We know that we have seen something that looks like this before but what? With these paintings Hammershoi refutes the idea that landscapes are conventional or unthinking entertainment. They do not easily let the viewer go.
1. Landscape with a Barn, 1883, private collection, Denmark.
2. Farmhouse, 1833, Nordisk Galerie, Paris.
3. The Farm, 1883, private collection, Denmark.