The Munch Museum is one of Oslo´s latests landmark buildings. Controversial in all its hoovering massiveness – seemingly constructed out of roadside W-beam crash barriers. It is located in the Bjørvika area next to the universally acclaimed opera house and the new Deichman library. A prime location for Norways most famous painter – arguably Norways only famous painter.
The painting Scream has become one of the most iconic images in art history, way more known than the artist himself. Edvard Munch was born in 1863 and died at 81 in 1944, just barely missing the end of the second world war. Although his art was banned by the Nazi´s, most of his work survived the war – and can be seen at the museum.
REVISITING A NATIONAL TREASURE
For those of us who has grown up in Norway Edvard Munch is such an integral part of our heritage that many of us take his art for granted. We have seen his paintings, and we think we know it, but often without having really seen the depth of his work. Or at least this is how I felt visiting the museum now, at the ripe age of 50.
Despite my art education and life long interest in art, I have never really fully embraced the genius and fame of Munch. I have always acknowledged it, and assumed the fame to be deserving, but it was not until this last visit to the museum that it really hit me in the gut. Since I’ve seen it all before some might credit the exhibition, the way his art is presented in the new museum, but I believe that the main reason that I now can appreciate it on a deeper level than before is lifeitself.
SEEING MUNCHS ART WITH “OLDER” EYES
It took me 50 years to fully see Munch´s art for the genius it is, where it came from and the life it reflects. The childhood of illness, the loss of his mother and sister, bereavement and dread of inheriting a mental condition that ran in the family. Studying at the Royal School of Art and Design in Kristiania (Oslo). Living the bohemian lifestyle with influences like Hans Jæger, a well known nihilist. His travels through Europe in the time of Paul Gauguin, Vincent van Gogh and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. Hanging out with August Strindberg in Berlin. It was Hans Jæger who initially urged him to paint his own emotional and psychological state, from which his distinctive style emerged.
All these influences suddenly made sense to a fifty year old man finally checking out the new landmark museum in Oslo. Others might experience this earlier in life, while some will not get it at all, as is the case with all art.
A LIFESPAN OVER THIRTEEN FLOORS
The museum presents the art in all its breadth over thirteen floors, from early drawings and small sketches to the monumental The Sun via the iconic Scream. In addition to the permanent exhibitions the museum also curates a variation of temporary shows, workshops, concerts and collaborations.
Outside the museum the almost as massive and hoovering Tracy Emin-sculpture The Mother is situated facing the Oslofjord. The Mother depicts a large, kneeling figure who holds gently around something we can not see, with its back to the museum.
At VGAN we wholeheartedly recommend visiting The Munch Museum in Oslo, wether you are fifteen or fifty or whatever … and then visit again throughout life, because there is no doubt that ones own life experiences will influence the way we see the work of Edvard Munch.
A minor disclaimer is that we can not recommend the museum restaurant, as it was a bit of a disappointment on our last visit. However the surrounding area has plenty of alternatives for the hungry traveller.