We’ve asked members of the Getty community to share short reflections on works of art they’re thinking about right now. These recordings feature stories related to our daily lives.
This week, curator Davide Gasparotto reminisces on his days as a student through Vilelm Hammershøi’s Interior with an Easel, Bredgade 25. To learn more about this work, visit: https://www.getty.edu/art/collection/objects/332549/.
Over the next few weeks, look for new recordings every other Tuesday.
JAMES CUNO: Hi, I’m Jim Cuno, president of the J. Paul Getty Trust. In a new podcast feature, we’re asking members of the Getty community to share short reflections on works of art they’re thinking about right now. We’ll be releasing new recordings every other Tuesday. I hope you’ll find these stories about our daily lives—from laundry on the line to a dog at a scholar’s feet—thought provoking, illuminating, and entertaining.
DAVIDE GASPAROTTO: I am Davide Gasparotto, Senior Curator of Paintings at the Getty Museum.
The last seven months represented in many ways an unprecedented experience. But this situation has made me think about the time when I was a student at the University almost thirty years ago. While preparing for an exam, I used to spend all day at home at my desk for several weeks, reading or writing, and each day looked more or less the same as the previous one.
Now I am again secluded for most of the day in one room, this time in our small apartment in Santa Monica. And I often think to a beautiful, mesmerizing painting by Danish painter Vilelm Hammershøi, who is sometimes labelled as the modern Vermeer.
Hammershøi is renowned for his meditative interior scenes, and this depiction of his apartment and studio in Copenhagen is among the most enigmatic and compelling of these. The sparsely furnished interior features only an artist’s easel, a small side table visible through a half-open doorway, and a gilt-framed engraving hung high on the wall, perhaps to protect it from direct sunlight. For me the real protagonist of the work is indeed the cool, Nordic sunlight entering from unseen windows which casts large, geometric patches on the walls and the floor. I love the sober mood of the picture, where the impression of emptiness and silence is conveyed through a restrained palette, dominated by harmonious hues of grey.
My room, now filled with books and boxes with files that I brought from the museum, is not as empty as Hammershøi’s apartment, and often I have to keep the blinds closed to prevent the bright California sunlight to enter, making the space too warm and impossible to look at the screen of my laptop. If for Hammershøi the almost obsessive depiction of his apartment encompassed a research on the meaning of the act of painting itself, in the last few months my room became the center of my life and a solitary space devoted to reflection and research. But it became also the place of nostalgia, especially when I think to the galleries where the painting is usually hanging, which are now empty, hoping that I can go back soon and enjoy again the museum with visitors, friends, and colleagues.
CUNO: To view Vilhelm Hammershøi’s Interior with an Easel, Bredgade 25, made in Denmark around 1912, click the link in this episode’s description or look for it on getty.edu/art/collection.