Elective Affinities XXVI: Danish Painting

by Nandia Foteini Vlachou


Danny Cohen, the cinematographer of The Danish Girl, the 2015 biography recounting the story of transgender Danish painter Lili Elbe (born Einar Wegener), has done a superb job with a palette of blues and greys in capturing the cool northern light and the bare interiors of the house Einar/Lili shared with his artist wife, Gerda Wegener. The unacknowledged protagonist here is another Danish painter, perhaps the most famous one till this day, Vilhelm Hammershøi (1864-1916). His paintings, often depicting his wife Ida seen from the back, set in evocatively simple surroundings, through doorways or next to windows, have an almost mystical quality, of solitude, concentration and calm.


Vilhelm Hammershøi, Interior with Young Woman from Behind, 1904, oil on canvas, 60.5 × 50.5 cm, Randers Kunstmuseum, Denmark


The Danish Girl (2015), dir. Tom Hooper


Vilhelm Hammershøi, Interior in Strandgade, Sunlight on the Floor, 1901, oil on canvas, 63.9 x 70.2 cm, Statens Museum for Kunst – National Gallery of Denmark, Copenhagen