Peter Vilhelm Ilsted

(1861 - 1933)

Sunlit interior, the artist’s daughter Ellen is playing the piano

Signed with monogram
Oil on canvas
23¼ x 21⅝ in – 59 x 55 cm
Frame size
29¼ x 27½ in – 74.3 x 69.8 cm

Tel.: +44 (0)20 7839 7693


Bruun Rasmussen auction 332, 1975, no.64, reproduced p.27;
Private collection, Denmark 
Peter Ilsted, along with his brother-in-law Wilhelm Hammershoi and mutual friend Carl Holsøe, are often referred to as the Copenhagen Interior School. Although both artists clearly had a strong influence on Ilsted, his work stands apart in a number of ways. Hammershoi's melancholic interiors, generally devoid of people, reflect his preference to withdraw '...from all forms of life...a silent protest against all the gaudy and gaping tastelessness of our time.' Holsøe's compositions are far less severe but nevertheless, usually include an adult frozen in a contemplative reverie. In contrast, Ilsted's paintings convey an ideal and ordered domestic existence. The present work depicts Ellen, one of his four children, practicing the piano. She is well dressed with neatly plaited hair. Fresh flowers sit on the piano while silhouettes and prints hang in perfect symmetry on the wall. The single chair gives a sense of spaciousness to the whole room. The fact that Ilsted generally used his children as sitters instantly lightens the mood, and in most cases, as here, they are occupied and busy, as opposed to lost in thought. One can imagine noise, in this case musical notes, filling the air, rather than a pervasive silence. His colour and tones are generally warmer, employing soft yellows and blues, instead of austere greys and black. All in all, it is the overwhelmingly benign atmosphere that distinguishes Ilsted from his fellow painters of 'sunshine and silent rooms.'


Born on 14th February 1861, Peter Vilhelm Ilsted was one of a number of Danish painters born within the span of a few years who were to achieve international renown, amongst them Carl Vilhelm Holsøe (1863-1935), Paul Fischer (1860-1934), Vilhelm Hammershøi (1864-1916) and Peder Mørk Mønsted (1859-1941).

In his early work, Ilsted was a painter of genre and portraits, however, his sister having married Vilhelm Hammershøi, he came under the influence of both his brother-in-law and his close friend Carl Holsøe. As a result of this, he too was to become widely known for his interior scenes. Using the interior of his home and members of his family as sitters, Ilsted’s subjects would be scenes set in the kitchen preparing food, or in a dining or drawing room with or without figures, but always with an emphasis on light and its interplay on surfaces.

Like so many of his Danish contemporaries, Ilsted travelled widely, to Italy, Greece, the Middle East, Spain and France in 1886, returning to Italy and France in 1891 and to Italy again in 1894 and 1905, and to England in 1913. Ilsted was widely known throughout Europe, he exhibited at the Paris Salon in 1889, receiving an honourable mention and again in 1890 being awarded a medal, and also in 1900; he exhibited in Copenhagen 1891-99, Budapest 1906-7, Munich 1909 and 1913, Berlin 1910-11, Malmo 1914 and Stockholm 1924. Further afield Ilsted exhibited in Chicago in 1893. An artist highly regarded in Scandinavia, Ilsted was recognised as an artist of International stature and popularity.

His works can be found in museums in: Aalborg; Aarhus; Copenhagen; Krefeld; Paris, Musée d’Orsay and>
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Bibliography: E. Benezit “Dictionnaire des Artistes”

Peter Vilhelm Ilsted