With support form the New Carlsberg Foundation and Augustinus Fonden, The Hirschsprung Collection has acquired an important self-portrait by Vilhelm Hammershøi (1864–1916). The museum already owns 16 paintings by the internationally acclaimed artist, but this is the first self-portrait to go on display as part of the permanent collection.

Of the finest carat

The Hirschsprung Collection acquired the piece directly from a private collection. ‘We are incredibly grateful that the owner was specifically interested in selling the piece to The Hirschsprung Collection. In purely compositional terms it is a painting of the finest carat. It shows Hammershøi’s interest in the interplay of light and shadow, which is a recurrent theme in many of his paintings. The self-portrait tells the story of an artist who is coming into his own, both as an artist and in his personal life. Hammershøi’s self-portrait adds a significant layer to our knowledge of a key artist in The Hirschsprung Collection,’ says Gertrud Oelsner, museum director.

Ambiguous and inscrutable

The self-portrait has a vital and vibrant expression, painted with Hammershøi’s sensitive touch. The artist is elegantly dressed in a jacket and tie. Pushing his face slightly forward towards the viewer, he portrays himself as curious, ambiguous and inscrutable.

Selvportræt was painted during the artist’s honeymoon trip in 1891. For a long time it remained in the Hammershøi family, and after the artist’s death it passed to his younger brother, the painter Svend Hammershøi. After Svend Hammershøi’s death it passed to their sister, Anna Hammershøi, and was later sold at auction, in 1955.

Important Hammershøi collection

The Hirschsprung Collection owns one of the most important Hammershøi collections in the world. The museum’s founder, Heinrich Hirschsprung, acquired works by Hammershøi from an early time. He acquired the first, En gammel kone (An Old Woman) (1886), as early as 1888, and in 1896 he acquired one of the artist’s principal works, Portræt af en ung pige. Kunstnerens søster. Anna Hammershøi (Portrait of a Young Woman. The Artist’s Sister. Anna Hammershøi) (1885), a piece that cemented Hammershøi’s position within the young generation of artists. In 2018, the museum acquired Sovekammer (Bedroom) (1890) from the late English art dealer Lady Jane Abdy. In addition to paintings The Hirschsprungske Collection also includes drawings, photographs and letters, including several from the honeymoon in 1891.

The self-portrait will be on display at the museum from Wednesday, 26 June.