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Newcastle upon Tyne, England, United Kingdom
August 22, 2010
From journal Penny Pinchers Guide to Oslo
by Owen Lipsett
New York, New York
January 28, 2005
Although his paintings have spread nearly as far as his reputation, the lion’s share of the work of Edvard Munch (1863-1944) are to be found in this museum, built by the city of Oslo to display the collection he donated to them upon his death. The spacious and airy building, northeast of the city center and adjacent to the city’s botanical garden, sharply contrasts in its location and architecture with many (but by no means all) of the works inside. Haunted by the deaths of his mother and sister by tuberculosis, Munch gave up his own illness-plagued engineering studies to enter the Royal Academy of Painting in 1881. While Munch’s talent was recognized early on and he became the first artist ever to have a solo exhibition in the capital at in 1889, his early adulthood was cursed by long periods of poor health, alcoholism, and several disastrous relationships.
Despite, or perhaps because of, these difficulties, Munch produced a vast and largely coherent body of work distinguished by his so-called "Synthesist" idiom, utilizing a combination of natural light and somewhat exaggerated (and highly symbolic) color choices. In order to heighten the level of psychological tension in his paintings, he placed his subjects in front and made relatively little use of perspective, thrusting directly into their psychological torment. Although his two best known works, "The Scream" and "A Madonna" were both stolen from the museum in August 2004 (which is why the museum is currently closed), versions of both paintings are on display in Oslo’s Nasjonalgalleriet. In any case, what makes the Munch Museum such a rewarding experience is not so much individual pieces as the collective nature of their presentation, accompanied by helpful descriptive panels in English and Norwegian, covering the artist’s entire career.
For all his angst and his employment of a remarkably consistent style over his long and productive career, Munch did not exclusively portray tortured souls. The museum’s auditorium contains smaller versions of the optimistic murals in Oslo University’s Aula Maxima, including "The Sun" and "History", which he based upon his observations of the area around his summer house near Oslo, in Kragerø. After completing the commission, Munch remarked that "never has work given me so much pleasure." Together with Munch’s charming watercolors of fairy-tale forests, on display elsewhere in the museums, these depictions of the rise of civilization and knowledge suggest that Munch did, in fact, find some peace later in life, as his remarks to friends and contemporaries suggest.
While there are works by Munch scattered throughout his native city, with which he had an extreme love-hate relationship, the finest selection are to be found here, and if you have an interest in either Munch or art, a visit is absolutely essential. If you have the time, the Nasjonalgalleriet, Aula Maxima, and Rådhus, all save the last of which are free to enter, are the other main locations in Oslo for his work.
From journal Oslo's Art and Culture on a Budget
Todmorden, England, United Kingdom
November 19, 2002
Toyen is on all the Eastbound tunnelbahn lines and signs locating the Munch-museet lead from there. Upon his death in 1944, Munch left all his remaining art work to the city and the planned museum opened in 1963. There is not much point in my trying laboriously to describe the works in the museum when their website is so very good. The website is accessible here.
This is not a place for the suicidal – or for children come to that – but it is part of Oslo’s heritage and should be seen.
From Karl Johans Gate, Universitetsgaten is on the right as you face the Royal Palace not far from the National Theatre. Follow it across the first intersection and you come to the National Gallery on your left. There is a lift from street level and another inside for the physically handicapped and prams.
The Gallery has about 4500 paintings which are divided between Norwegian and general European works. I expected to spend time looking at French impressionist works that I had not seen. I felt that, being in Norway, I should look at some Norwegian work first, having only (I am afraid) heard of Munch. Two hours or so later I left the Gallery pretty tired but very happy, having given the French section no more than a short glance before leaving. Need I say more?
The Frognerpark, also called the Vigeland Park, is quite unique. I found it great but I know someone who hated it and never forgives me for my view! Anyway I still think it is great. All the sculptures in the park were done by Gustav Vigeland, except a small number to commemorate the monolith after his death, and there are nearly 200 sculptures in total. Vigeland went on with sculptures for the park until his death in 1943.
As for what it is like, to start with there are nearly 60 bronze sculptures on the bridge as you enter the grounds. There is a temptation to rush on with the fountain and beyond it the Monolith clearly in sight, but it would be a sad mistake not to give the bronze works a bit of time.
Before the monolith is reached , you come to the fountain. Six giants are holding up a sort of big saucerlike article which spouts out water all over them. Then to the monolith which forms a sort of natural magnet in the park. It is over 14 meters high and made out of a single block of stone. There are well over a hundred figures on it, and it is surrounded by numerous groups of figures. This is not the end but it is as far as I got. Way out beyond the monolith the bronze Wheel of Life can be seen.
From journal Oslo - SO much