• Impressionist/Modern Evening S auction at Christies

    Sale 7831

    Impressionist/Modern Evening Sale

    2 February 2010, London, King Street

  • Lot 46

    Edvard Munch (1863-1944)

    Der Märchenwald

    Price Realised  


    Edvard Munch (1863-1944)
    Der Märchenwald
    signed and dated 'Edv. Munch 1927' (lower right)
    oil on canvas
    33 5/8 x 31 5/8 in. (85.5 x 80.4 cm.)
    Painted in 1927-1929

    Contact Client Service
    • info@christies.com

    • New York +1 212 636 2000

    • London +44 (0)20 7839 9060

    • Hong Kong +852 2760 1766

    • Shanghai +86 21 6355 1766

    Contact the department

    Der Märchenwald (The Fairytale Forest) is Edvard Munch's final realisation of a theme that he first began around 1900-1901, in which he sought to convey the mysterious aura of a dark cathedral-like forest and its mesmerizing effect on a group of young children.

    Reminiscent in some respects of the same kind of mystery that Munch sought to express in another repeated subject at this time - that a group of young girls on a bridge - the artist's interest in his paintings of the Märchewald or 'fairytale forest' derives from a specific experience Munch had around this time, and which he described in one of his diaries.

    'In the mornings I went to the forest, first along the path with the small peaceful houses along either side - in the gardens with their blooming cherry trees and flowers and greenery - there I greeted all the sweet little children whose voices were like a fresh drink for my sick soul, their large eyes, a beautiful, lost world, where I myself once used to be. Their graceful Spring-like movements were a joy to behold. The little girls, how like women they were, and the boys, how like men. The little girls - shy but also cheeky, charming and funny - strutting around according to the laws of Nature. And then came the forest - the young children's forest - light green branches like church steeples, climbing higher and stronger until the forest stood like a huge cathedral, trunk upon trunk, column upon column while the birds played the music' (Edvard Munch, 'Tgebuch,' quoted in Edvard Munch, Sein Werk in Schweizer Sammlungen, exh. cat., Kunstmuseum Basel, 1985, p. 58).

    In Der Märchenwald, Munch returned to the theme which had been the subject of at least three paintings from 1901-2 and combined these with that of another series of pictures, entitled Dunkler Tannenwald ('Dark Spruce Forest'), that had occupied him in 1899. Fusing these two repeated themes of his work, Der Märchenwald draws on the encounter between the children and the vast dark spruce forest Munch had witnessed so many years before, as a way of invoking a similar sense of both the sublime mystery of the forest and of the psychological awakening it aroused in the children. In this, as its title suggests, Der Märchenwald is like an image from Grimm's fairytales, where the great dark Nordic forest often played a similar role. Showing the children descending into the foreground, this painting, with its Caspar David Friedrich-like contrast in scale between the small individual figures of the awe-struck children and the vast cathedral-like forest, uses the landscape, like so many of Munch's great works, as a powerful and emotive expression of a particular stage of life.

    Special Notice

    VAT rate of 5% is payable on hammer price and at 17.5% on the buyer's premium.


    Rolf Hansen, Oslo.
    Rolf E. Stenersen, Oslo, by 1934.
    Private collection, Switzerland, by 1954.
    Galerie Beyeler, Basel.
    Acquired from the above by the family of the present owner in 1954, and thence by descent.

    Pre-Lot Text



    A. Eggum, Der Linde-Fries. Edvard Munch und sein erster deutscher Mäzen, Dr. Max Linde, Lubeck, 1982, p. 23 (dated '1927').
    G. Woll, Edvard Munch, Complete Paintings, catalogue raisonné, 1921-1944, vol. IV, London, 2009, no. 1634 (illustrated p. 1475; catalogued as dated '1929').


    Oslo, Kunstforening, Rolf Stenersens samling, May 1934.
    Oslo, Kunstnernes Hus, Rolf Stenersens samling, April - May 1936, no. 36.
    Amsterdam, Stedelijk Museum, Edvard Munch, May - June 1937, no. 5 (titled 'Kindern in een Sprokjesbosch').
    Basel, Galerie Beyeler, Edvard Munch, June - July 1954, no. 5 (illustrated on the cover titled 'Kinder in Märchenwald' and dated '1929').
    Winterthur, Kunstmuseum, Edvard Munch, August - September 1954, no. 23.
    Basel, Kunsthalle, Basler Privatbesitz, July - September 1957, no. 231 (dated '1929').
    Bern, Kunstmuseum, Edvard Munch, October - November 1958, no. 85 (illustrated).
    Basel, Kunstmuseum, Edvard Munch, Sein Werk in Schweizer Sammlungen, June - September 1985, no. 28 (illustrated p. 59, dated '1929').