Franklin Einspruch reviews Painting Tranquility: Masterworks by Vilhelm Hammershøi at Scandinavia House, New York, on view through February 27, 2016.
Einspruch writes: "... Hammershøi began painting unqualified masterpieces while still in his mid-twenties. It’s not excessive to say that Woman Seen from the Back (1888) recalls Vermeer’s treatment of women in the midst of domesticity. But it’s Vermeer with Scandinavian austerity measures. The subject’s back faces the viewer and the table is bereft of clues that would set the scene. Is she reading a note? It’s none of our business. Her posture, matronly proportions, black dress, and white apron convey her whole personality. The gradation of light on the unadorned taupe wall speaks of the reserved tenor of life in this house. The picture necessitated four tubes of oils. As much as its reductive modernism resembles Whistler’s, the artist appears to have arrived at it mostly on his own."