Grey is a versatile neutral with a broad tonal range from silvery white to charcoal. While grey may have immediate associations as being a cold and dreary hue, it can quickly move into the warmer tones with even the slightest touch of red or yellow. Grey is also a shade that is very sensitive to the quality of light surrounding it. In a northern facing room with little natural light, it will lean toward the cooler side of the spectrum.
The Danish artist Vilhelm Hammershøi (1864-1916) painted with a palette comprised mostly of grey tones. He is best known for his paintings of interiors, which are spare and quiet, often with only the back of a lone figure. He was known to have reclusive tendencies, so most of these paintings take place in his 17th century house in Copenhagen, and the figure is usually that of his wife Ida.
Hammershøi expressed the elusive quality of light and shadow with subtle gradations of color. While he seemed to rarely veer from his grey palette, the range of tonal variation and intensity feels infinite. These paintings remind me of the intricate link between light and color.
Paintings by Vilhelm Hammershøi in order:
Dust Motes Dancing in the Sunbeams 1900, Interior Strandgade 30 1901, The Tall Windows 1913, The Sunny Parlor 1901, Sunshine in the Drawing Room III 1903
Interiors in order: John Saladino via Splendid-Sass, photo by Tria Giovan, via 1st Dibs Introspective magazine, Mathew Patrick Smyth, Jean Louis Deniot, Tom Fox and Joe Nahem of Fox-Nahem Design via Elle Décor, Steven Volpe via Elle Decor
Tags: Grey, Vilhelm Hammershøi