Sonja Henie-Niels Onstad, Oslo (acquired by 1954)
Galerie Jan Krugier, Geneva
Acquired from the above by the family of the present owner in 1980
Kristiania, Blomqvist Kunsthandel, Edvard Munch, 1918, n.n. (titled Sommernat, billede fra Vestre Aker)
Vienna, Akademie der Bildende Künste, Edvard Munch, Wiener Festwochen, 1959, no. 48 (titled Hofsalleen and as dating from 1911)
London, The Tate Gallery; Edinburgh, Royal Scottish Academy; Liverpool, Walker Art Gallery; Paris, Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris; Stuttgart, Württembergischer Kunstverein; Frankfurt, Frankfurter Kunstverein; Basel, Kunsthalle; Vienna, Kunstlerhaus; The Hague, Haags Gemeentemuseum; Geneva, Musée d'Art et d'Histoire & Bergen, Kunsthall, Sonja Henie-Niels Onstad Collection, 1961-63, no. 2 (titled Paths and as dating from 1914)
Paris, Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, Passions privées, Collections particulères d'art modern et contemporain en France, 1995-96, no. A25.4, illustrated in the catalogue (as dating from 1914)
G. Schoenenberger, "Exposition dans la Suisse," Art International, vol. VI/2, March 1962, p. 74
Gerd Woll, Edvard Munch, Complete Paintings, Catalogue Raisonné, 1909-1920, vol. 3, London, 2009, no. 1235, illustrated p. 1143
In 1916, Munch purchased the estate of Ekely at Skøyen just outside Kristiania, present-day Oslo, where he lived for the remainder of his life. Ekely encompassed eleven acres of grounds including sweeping farmland and an elm forest. Sommernatt depicts Hofsalleen, the rural location close to Ekely where Munch frequently walked along the tree-lined roadway. This work is one of a series of picturesque views that Munch painted of the scenery in and around Ekely. According to Elizabeth Prelinger, "Ekely became for Munch what the villa and gardens at Giverny meant for the Impressionist painter Claude Monet: a rich source of inspiration for his art and nourishment for his soul" (E. Prelinger, After the Scream: The Late Paintings of Edvard Munch, Atlanta, 2001, p. 51).
In the present painting, Munch creates a dramatic composition out of a seemingly straightforward representation of nature. Although Munch in his later years had intentionally turned away from the emotionally charged self-expression of his earlier works, he typically infused his landscape paintings with deeper psychological content. Sommernatt is no exception; the rich contrasts, particularly between darkness and light, add a complexity and depth that evokes an atmosphere not of foreboding but of peace and calm, perhaps reflecting the tranquility in Munch's own life during this period.
The expressive use of contrast and form serves not only to render a certain atmosphere, but also to convey a particular mood. In depicting nature in such a highly individual manner, Munch draws on the tradition of stemningsmaleri, or 'mood-painting', characteristic of Nordic art towards the end of the nineteenth century. Alongside his fellow Norwegian artists such as Harold Sohlberg and Halfdan Egedius, Munch abandoned the plein-air naturalism which had dominated Norwegian landscape painting, in favor of a resonant vision of nature. The artist himself proclaimed about his personal, expressive use of color: "One must paint from memory. Nature is merely the means. They want the painter to transmit information simply as if he were the camera. Whether or not a painting looks like that landscape is beside the point. Explaining a picture is impossible. The very reason it has been painted is because it cannot be explained any other way.... If one wishes to paint that first pale blue morning atmosphere that made such an impression, one cannot simply sit down, start at each object and paint them exactly as one sees them. They must be painted as they were when that motif made such a vivid impression" (quoted in Sue Prideaux, Edvard Munch: Behind the Scream, London, 2005, p. 201).
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