Consider the following eulogy offered the Danish painter, Vilhelm Hammershøi, by one of his own countrymen upon the artist’s untimely death in 1916. “Renoir is an artist for the entire world; Hammershøi, name and repute notwithstanding, only for a small country.”1 The Danish critic offered no criteria for his judgment; it was too obvious to him. Even in his own country Hammershøi could be no more than a minor artist. His diminished posthumous reputation within the history of art might be summed up by the decision in 1931 of the director of the Statens Museum in Copenhagen to return a gift of 28 pictures by Hammershøi to their donor merely on the grounds that the museum lacked space. Here is a poignant example of how the triumphant modernists translated the kind of stylistic differences between artists such as Vilhelm Hammershøi and Pierre-Auguste Renoir into historical and geopolitical arguments and their long-term effects on the canon of modern art.

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A presentation given at the Southeastern College Art Association Conference at the University of North Florida, Jacksonville, FL.