- Edvard Munch
- VIEW FROM NORDSTRAND
- signed Munch (lower right)
- oil on canvas
Gerd & Otto Nyquiest, Norway (by descent from the above in 1916. Sale: Wangs Kunsthandel, Oslo, 1932, lot 32)
Mustad Collection, Oslo (probably purchased at the above sale)
Private Collection, Norway (by descent from the above. Sale: Sotheby's, London, 29th November 1988, lot 52)
Purchased at the above sale by the family of the present owner
Oslo, Nasjonalgalleriet, Edvard Munch, 1927, no. 115
Mannheim, Städtische Kunsthalle, Edvard Munch, Sommernacht am Oslofjord um 1900, 1988, no. M11, illustrated in colour in the catalogue (with incorrect measurements)
The present work was painted in the winter of 1900-01 at Nordstrand, a suburb east of Oslo facing the Oslofjord. It depicts the landscape seen from Munch's rooms at Hammer's Boarding House, where he enjoyed a beautiful view overlooking the Fjord with the tree tops in the foreground and the distant islands (fig. 1). Munch spent many sleepless nights walking along the sea, and the winding coastline, with its tall trees, the vast expanse of the sky and a distant horizon line, became an important part of his pictorial imagery (fig. 2). With the soft pink and purple colouration of the sky, the present scene probably depicts a 'white night', a characteristic of Nordic winters.
The landscape and the coast line around the Oslofjord provided the backdrop to many of Munch's compositions. Occupying a special place in the artist's world and his memories, it served as a stage on which, in Munch's own words, 'life is played out in all its variety, with its joys and sorrows.' Devoid of human figures, however, the present landscape does not attempt to render a particular scene; rather, it represents a landscape of the mind, onto which the artist projected his own emotional and mental state. The tall, swirling trees that dominate the composition are depicted with an anthropomorphic quality, while the undulating lines of the sky and the island in the background give a lyrical tone to the composition.
The expressive use of colour and form serves not only to render a certain atmosphere, but also to convey the artist's inner state of being. In depicting nature in such a highly individual, internalised 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 Sohlberg and Egedius, Munch abandoned the plein-air naturalism which had dominated Norwegian landscape painting, in favour of an emotionally charged and resonant vision of nature. The artist himself proclaimed about his personal, expressive use of colour:
'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, stare 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). Capturing such a moment that Munch would have witnessed either from his room or during one of his walks, the present work depicts the artist's own interpretation of his surroundings. Reflecting his inner state, it is a magnificent example of Munch's vision of the genre of landscape art not as observation but as momentary flash of intuition.