Edward Hopper is going viral in lockdown culture. However, there are less obvious yet powerful representations of human isolation in fine art. Take Vilhelm Hammershoi for example.
It seems Danish artist did not like people a lot. The human race had been swept clean from his cityscapes, landscapes and even interiors. Bare rooms, empty streets, unpopulated fields and copses.
However, there is one figure repetitively showing up in his paintings. A mysterious woman in a black prudish dress, often standing back to the viewer. No face expression, hands concealed. Actually, it is not possible to figure out what is she doing out there.
There is no narrative in his works. No hidden clues. Artist does not want to tell us any story. That is why looking at these paintings arouse some kind of distress.
Imagine filming an empty room for several hours. We know nothing happens in that room but after watching it for so long we feel subconsciously there is something wrong.
Emptiness, motionlessness, suspension in time become unbearable. Hammershoi’s paintings are like a breath of cold air right in the face. That kind of creepy weirdness as in J-horror movies.
In his cityscapes, there are no people too. We can visualise empty streets and buildings in Copenhagen but he portrayed in the same way always busy streets of central London. That’s unusual, isn’t it?
Unless the city is under quarantine. Now Hammershoi’s lockdown art is something we are all more familiar with.