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Are artists capable of time travel? The bleak, depressing work of Danish painter Vilhelm Hammershøi would certainly seem to suggest so

By Ben Lewis   August 2008

Art has its own version of the crop circle, that unexplained natural phenomenon. It is when the work of an artist appears informed by theoretical concerns of which he cannot be aware, because they haven’t been invented yet. One example of this is “The Poetry of Silence,” on until early September at the Royal Academy, which showcases the work of the Danish painter Vilhelm Hammershøi, whose oeuvre is simultaneously behind the times, of its time, and before its time.

Born in 1864, Hammershøi lived most of his reclusive life in Copenhagen. In his day he enjoyed a mixture of recognition…

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