Open Doors

Vilhelm Hammershøi (1905)

This picture seems to look back to the simple but profoundly enigmatic representations of Vermeer: exquisite light and muted, even severe, colours depicting open-ended scenes that deliberately elude answers. He often paints people from the back, in the middle of tasks somehow furtive or concealed, and this painting lacks any human character or plot at all. He is much more concerned here with mood and melancholy. Where are we going? Towards the divine clarity of the light at the far end, or inwards into the uncertainty of relative darkness. He reminds us that life is defined as much by absence as presence, as much by silence as noise. One more thing: his fellow Dane, Hans Christian Andersen, said the whole world is a series of miracles, but were so used to them we call them ordinary things”. In one way, this picture presents a completely unremarkable scene, but in another, with its muted simplicity and unanswering beauty, its a quiet reminder to seek and savour the sublime wherever we can find it.