Hammershøi's Either/Or


Alsdorf, Bridget. “Hammershøi's Either/Or”. Critical Inquiry 42.2 (2016): , 42, 2, 268-305. Print.


The Danish painter Vilhelm Hammershøi (1864-1916) is best known for his austere interior scenes representing his private apartments in Copenhagen. This essay examines these works through the lens of Søren Kierkegaard’s aesthetics and philosophy of choice in Either/Or: A Fragment of Life (1843), drawing on two sections, in particular, that illuminate the artist’s view of domestic life: “Shadowgraphs” from Part 1 and “The Aesthetic Validity of Marriage” from Part 2. My central argument is that the intense inwardness of Hammershøi’s art is fundamentally philosophical, demonstrating a Kierkegaardian vision of mind that is existential in temperYet contra Kierkegaard these interiors show that visual art can capture something of a person’s inner life as well as the aesthetics of marriage by embracing the repetitive rigor of painting as a medium.

Last updated on 10/25/2016