Landskab med træer
Landscape with trees
Graphite, coal, partly washed in green on Van Gelder Zonen laid paper, ca. 1900
750 x 674 mm
Private collection, Copenhagen
A superb drawing illustrating the charm of Scandinavian landscape, through the eye of Svend Hammershøi. In the 19th century, the state of Denmark was a small country which had seen the shorn of its territories with the loss of Holstein and Schwelsig duchies in 1864. Danish art thus shifted away from foreign influences to focus on national art and on its own landscapes. Few decades later, Svend Hammershøi – the artist of this sheet – followed that tradition and added a sense of timelessness to these two enigmatic and powerful trees.
From 1890 to 1897, he studied first at the Royal Danish Academy of Art and then at the Kunstnernes Frie Studieskoler, both in Copenhague. Svend is the young brother of Vilhelm Hammershøi, of nine years his junior. Today considered as one of the most famous Danish painter, Vilhelm gathered a small group of friends and family around him, including his friend Carl Holsøe, his brother-in-law Peter Ilsted and of course his brother Svend. The Hammershøi brothers were close, as we can see in some paintings by Vilhelm for which Svend served as model. The Musée Jacquemart-André in Paris has recently studied for the first time the links between the two brothers and exhibited their works alongside. Svend had the same approach for intimate and silent subjects as his brother Vilhelm, even though Vilhelm preferred to paint interiors scenes as Svend Hammershøi had a fascination for Nature.
Vilhelm and Svend Hammershøi walked frequently together in forest and painted the same subjects, using different approach. The older brother would place the trees in vast and silent surroundings, whereas in Svend’s composition the trees fill out the whole composition, as we can see in the present drawing. Given the fact that Svend travelled often – in France, England and through the Danish countryside –, it is quite difficult to situate his landscapes, unless a building can be seen behind the trees – his landscapes were often accompanied by a castle, a ruin or even a cathedral. In the present drawing, what appears to be two little huts do not reveal much about these trees’ whereabouts. Be as it may, this virtuous sheet shows Svend’s affinity towards solitary trees to which he gives an undeniable poetic dimension.
 For example : Vilhelm Hammershøi, Interior with a young man reading (Svend Hammershøi), 1898, oil on canvas, 64.4 x 51.8 cm, Copenhague, Den Hirschsprungske Samling.
 Jean-Loup Champion, “Le paysage chez Vilhelm et Svend Hammershøi”, Hammershøi. Le maître de la peinture danoise, Paris, Musée Jacquemart-André, 2019, pp. 31-32.