Edvard Munch´s art is the most significant Norwegian contribution to the history of art, and he is the only Norwegian artist who has exercised a decisive influence on European art trends, above all as a pioneer of Expressionism in Germany and the Nordic countries.
When Munch died in January 1944, it transpired that he had unconditionally bequeathed all his remaining works to the City of Oslo.
After studies in Norway, Edvard Munch spent several years in France and Germany. From his time in France his work was influenced by the Nabis and the Post-Impressionists, particularly Gauguin, van Gogh, and Toulouse-Lautrec. Simultaneously he developed a distinct “private” symbolism, based on his own traumatic experiences.
In Berlin during the 1890s he executed a series of pictures called The Frieze of Life, described by himself as “a poem of life, love and death”. The Scream from this series – with its strong expression of conflict and tension – has become the very symbol of the alienation of modern man.
With his emphasis on mental anguish and his distortion of colours and form, Munch is regarded – together with van Gogh – as the main source of German Expressionism.
In 1908 Munch suffered a nervous breakdown, and the following year he returned to Norway where he spent the rest of his life. His palette became brighter and his motifs changed, but his art still reflects in a vigorous way the same existential problems of his earlier days, mirroring his own life into old age.
The Scream (1893)
The Scream has come more and more to be accepted as Edvard Munch´s most significant motif – the very symbol of modern man, for whom God is dead and for whom materialism provides no solace. Munch wrote several versions of a prose-lyrical associated with the motif, one of which reads:
I was walking along a path with two friends – the sun was setting – suddenly the sky turned blood red – I paused, feeling exhausted, and leaned on the fence – there was blood and tongues of fire above the blue-black fjord and the city – my friends walked on, and I stood there trembling with anxiety – and I sensed an infinite scream passing through nature.
The Scream of Nature is the title Munch gave to these works, all of which show a figure with an agonized expression against a landscape with a tumultuous red sky. The landscape in the background is the Oslofjord, viewed from Ekeberg. The Scream in the Munch Museum is one of two painted versions of the image.
The other is to be found in the National Gallery, Oslo. The National Gallery version is signed and dated 1893, and many scholars believe this to be the first one. Both versions are painted on cardboard, and Munch has also sketched the image on the reverse side of the National Gallery version.
The Scream – one of the two versions – was first exhibited at Unter den Linden in Berlin in December 1893. In 1895 an important version of the image was produced as a lithograph. There exist two pastels of the image, one belonging to the Munch Museum, the other privately owned (Petter Olsen).
Petter Olsen sold the painting to raise funds to build a museum in Hvitsten, where Munch once owned property and near where Olsen has an estate, to house the rest of his father´s collection.
Olsen´s version was sold for $ 119,922,500 at Sotheby´s Impressionist and Modern art auction on 2 May 2012 to financier Leon Black, the highest nominal price paid for a painting at auction.
There are also a few sketches related to The Scream on a sheet of paper in the Munch Museum collection.
The girls on the bridge (1901)
Åsgårdstrand is best known as the place where Edvard Munch painted “The Girls on the Bridge”. The reason for this is the very special light which the best artists either went to Åsgårdstrand in Vestfold or Skagen in Denmark to experience..
Åsgårdstrand was increasingly known as an important center for artists and painters and since the 1880s a vast number of internationally famous painters has either visited or lived in the town. Painters like Edvard Munch, Christian Krogh and Hans Heyerdahl. Edvard Munch bought a 18th century mariners house at Åsgårdstrand in 1897. Munch used the house as a summer home and studio up until his death in 1944.
The aura-like lines around the model in this main motif from The Frieze of Life which ripple in a soft and suggestive rhythm, the half-closed and deep-set eyes allow us to sense the ecstasy of conception, the pinnacle of love but also an underlying pain. The red colour of the halo has the associations with both love and blood.
The Munch Museum “Madonna” is painted on canvas. There are four additional painted versions of the image. The National Gallery in Oslo and the Hamburger Kunsthalle each have one, while two are in private collections. The Munch Museum “Madonna” is dated 1893-94. In 1895 Munch made a lithographic version of “Madonna”, with a decorative frame depicting spermatozoa and an embryo. Several poetic texts related to “Madonna” underscore the intimate relationship between love and death:
… Now life is shaking hands with death. The chain that binds together the thousand generations of dead with the thousand generations yet to be born has been tied…
The Scream and Madonna are both central in a cycle of images Munch called The Frieze of Life, which he described as “a poem about life, love and death”.
Edvard Munch prints & posters
Edvard Munch was one of the most distinctive (and tormented) artists of his generation. All our Edvard Munch prints & posters are available for purchase today.
Edvard Munch’s house
In picturesque Åsgårdstrand Edvard Munch´s House, with he himself dubbed “The Happy House”, is Åsgårdstrand”s biggest attraction. Edvard Munch bought this 18th century mariners house in 1897. Munch used the house as a summer home and studio up until his death in 1944.
It was here that Edvard Munch lived and found the inspiration for so many of his famous paintings. Today the house and studio have been turned into a museum.
Situated on the southern tip of Horten township, this cozy town with its characteristic white clapboard houses contains much else besides, and is still a hospitable and sunny seaside resort with excellent hotels and summers filled with visitors from far and near.
For boaters, the town is a gem, and has an almost Mediterranean atmosphere when the sun is at its warmest. Åsgårdstrand is an idyllic town to wander about in and experience the famous light so appreciated by artists. You will find Oriental rugs in Galleri Roseng, antiques at M.T. Corsmaier Thoen and paintings at Galleri “M”, Galleri Åsgårdstrand and Ragnar Almen.
Freia Milk Chocolate – Cantine – 12 Munch paintings
Freiasalen is another space in Oslo decorated by Munch. In 1920, Munch was asked by director Johan Throne Holst to decorate one of the dining halls at the Freia chocolate factory. Munch painted a series of 12 paintings, known as the Freia frieze. The paintings are bright and vital with motifs taken from everyday situations in the areas of Kragerø and Åsgårdsstrand.
Freiasalen substituted for the old dining hall in 1934, and the frieze was moved here. The hall is still used as a cafeteria for the employees of the chocolate factory. Visits are limited to pre-booked guided tours, as well as a few concerts and open events.
The University´s Aula
The University´s Aula is one of the buildings at the University of Oslo´s downtown campus. The Aula is an extension built at the university´s 100th anniversary in 1911. The competition to decorate for the new hall was both turbulent and long lasting, but Munch eventually got the commission.The work was finished on location in 1916.
Few jobs were of greater importance to Munch more than the Aula decorations. At the time, the large paintings were controversial in their experimental, expressionistic style. Today they stand as monumental expressions of what Munch himself described as “the big, eternal forces”.
The Aula is only open for the public during events. Luckily, it is a popular place for concerts.