Article updated on October 21, 2021
Text: Claire Lessiau & Marcella van Alphen
Photographs: Claire Lessiau & Marcella van Alphen
In 2012, Edvard Munch’s 1895 pastel, “The Scream” sold for a record price of just under $120 million at Sotheby’s auction house in New York City. This was then the most expensive piece of art ever sold at an auction, sealing Munch’s reputation as one of the most influential painters. What makes Munch’s paintings so engaging?
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There is an infinite number of ways to experience artwork and this is particularly relevant to the paintings of Edvard Munch (1863-1944): as the most famous member of the symbolism movement of the 1890’s, Norway’s most famous artist’s goal is to express the ideas that lay concealed behind the visible world. As such, a whole narrative can be created from these undulating lines and palettes full of contrasts, from these characters often looking at you from the canvas, from these mysterious and often very desperate images with no clear solutions. “I do not paint what I see, but what I saw” once said the painter whose sicknesses and personal tragedies had been central to his themes.
Oslo is where to explore the world of Munch. The artist is so celebrated in the Norwegian capital that a brand new museum is under construction next to the emblematic iceberg-like Opera House on the Oslo fjord. The most famous canvases of the prolific painter, or his children as he liked to refer to them, will be gathered there in a couple of years. For now, a specific room of the National Gallery hosts The Scream and the present-day Munch Museum showcases other versions of this famous canvas along with some of his most famous works. The accent is put on the viewer’s own interpretation with plenty of room to sit to observe the canvases.
If his most famous themes are mortality, vulnerability, illness, fear, anxiety, and discomfort, as a young artist in Kristiana (nowadays Oslo), Paris, and Berlin, Munch was also concerned by eroticism and love, spirit and matter. What brought him fame was his ability to connect his personal experiences with radical artistic means.
Ironically, Munch’s most famous painting has overshadowed his overall creativity as a pioneer and very prolific artist leaving to the world over 1,000 paintings, 4,000 drawings and 15,000 prints. Edvard Munch inspired the development of modernism both in his choices of themes and visual expression making his legacy reach way beyond his very much sought after paintings, and Oslo is the best place to explore his vast creativity and to really get to know Munch.
- The Munch Museum is a must-visit for the fans of the most famous Norwegian artist.
- The National gallery is home to the Scream. While you visit, make sure to admire The Bridal Procession on the Hardangerfjord by Gude and Tidemand, an icon of Norwegian identity.
- The Oslo Pass allows you to explore all of these museums for free, including transport, even by ferry!
- To get the GPS-powered version of this article in GPSmyCity, click on this link!
- To make it easy for you to explore Oslo, here is our interactive map, downloadable for free showing places to eat, drink, run and visit, from must-see cultural visits to low-key and off the beaten path spots. Zoom in on the area of interest, and check out the black pins: each of them corresponds to an article.
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