An introspective figure engrossed in reading or a domestic pursuit such as knitting was a central motif within the arts in Hammershøi’s day. The subject matter reflects an intimate situation comparable to the artist’s own state of mind while working in front of the canvas.
Figures occpying their own space
A central motif during the period’s art is the introverted figure engrossed with everyday pursuits such as reading, sewing, knitting, or sitting quietly in a sofa. In such intimate motifs the figures do not reach out to the viewer, but seem to occupy a space that is entirely their own.
Intimate situations, like painting
One might compare these introspective situations with the act of painting itself. Working in front of a canvas is also in many ways an introspective, intimate situation. In Hammershøi and his contemporaries the artist’s explorations of painting as an art form tend to be reflected in the everyday situations they painted.
A state of mind, that raises awareness of other observations
The many reading and sewing figures are in a contemplative state of mind reminiscent of the artist’s state of mind in front of the canvas. The artists use this link to focus on sensory elements. Familiar motifs are emptied of their traditional narratives, raising awareness of other observations – e.g. of light, skin, necks, hands, interactions, and spaces.