EDVARD MUNCH (1863-1944)
EDVARD MUNCH (1863-1944)
EDVARD MUNCH (1863-1944)
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EDVARD MUNCH (1863-1944)


EDVARD MUNCH (1863-1944)
signed 'E. Munch' (lower right)
oil on canvas
21 7⁄8 x 31 ¾ in. (55.5 x 80.9 cm.)
Painted in 1902-1903
Rolf E. Stenersen, Oslo, by whom acquired directly from the artist.
Arild Wahlstrøm, Oslo, by whom acquired from the above and until 1986.
Anonymous sale, Galerie Kornfeld, Bern, 18 June 1986, lot 598 (titled 'Sommer. - Garten in Åsgårdstrant am Oslofjord'; dated '1902-1904').
Morten Bergesen, Oslo.
Jan-Erik Dyvi, Oslo, by whom acquired from the above in 1990, and thence by descent to the present owners.
A. Moen, Edvard Munch, Nature and Animals, Graphic Art and Paintings, Oslo, 1958, no. 15, p. 110 (illustrated p. 107; titled 'Summer').
A. Eggum, Rolf E.Stenersens gave til oslo by: Akersamlingen, Oslo, 1974, p. 199.
G. Woll, Edvard Munch: Complete Paintings, Catalogue Raisonné, vol. II, 1898-1908, New York, 2009, no. 532, p. 565 (illustrated).
Oslo, Kunstnernes Hus, Rolf Stenersens samling, January 1948, no. 104, p. 6 (titled 'Have').

Brought to you by

Claudia Schürch
Claudia Schürch Senior Specialist, Interim Head of Department

Lot Essay

Painted in 1902, Edvard Munch’s Hage depicts a placid sky and bountiful garden awash in the glowing pinks and oranges of late summer. In the foreground, gestural brushwork alludes to white blossoms as well as a small cluster of leafy shrubbery. In contrast to the pristine cerulean sky—'Joy is sky blue’ Munch once proclaimed—the land roils with a sense of verdant energy and life (quoted in P. Tøjner, Munch: In His Own Words, London, 2003, p. 139). At this time, Munch painted a number of pure landscapes in bright, saturated colours with distinctive liquescent brushwork, where the depiction of nature was not just a backdrop for dramatic scenarios—as it had often been in his earlier work—but a subject in its own right, here abstracted to bold, decorative effect.

Hage was most likely painted at Munch’s home in Åsgårdstrand, a small fishing village southwest of Oslo, where he had first rented a summerhouse in 1889. Munch waxed lyrical in his letters about the beauty of this part of Norway and he was to spend many of his summers there over the following twenty years, immortalising its landscapes in some of his most haunting and remarkable paintings. For instance, it provided the setting for a large number of paintings in his great cycle of works known as the Frieze of Life and was the background to his celebrated Linde Frieze, a commission he worked on during the summer of 1904.

The garden and house at Åsgårdstrand provided the often-troubled artist with a degree of solace and stability and in 1897 Munch eventually purchased the small cabin, buying it ‘in order to live there half the year in peace from life in Kristiania’ (Munch, quoted in A. Pettersson, ed., The Shore of Love: Edvard Munch and Åsgårdstrand, exh. cat., Lillehammer, 2010, p. 13). While Munch had initially concentrated on coastal views and the environs of Åsgårdstrand, following the purchase of his home, the artist focused increasingly on painting his own property and its surrounding garden, presenting it as a dominant, animated force that overwhelmed his little house. Munch had grown up watching his mother and aunt tend the plants at his childhood home in Løten, and he would go on to cultivate kitchen and flower beds at the various homes in which he lived over the years. His hobby coincided with the horticultural boom in Europe during which there was an avid interest in cross-pollinating new and exotic species. Scientific and technological advances encouraged the import of plants and in the last years of the nineteenth century, more than a million new species were introduced to the continent. At Åsgårdstrand, alongside the more traditional fruit bushes and apple trees, Munch cultivated several rare varietals of flowers and plant-life.

The antithesis of a naturalistic, documentary or objective rendering of nature, Munch’s landscapes are highly subjective in both their formal execution and their symbolic meaning; the product of imagination rather than of a perceived reality. The artist explained his approach to landscape painting as such: ‘It was the era of realism and impressionism… It so happened that I would find myself in either a morbidly agitated state of mind or a cheerful mood when I discovered a landscape I wanted to paint… I got out my easel, stood it up, and painted the picture from nature… It would turn out to be a good painting – but not what I had wanted to paint. I couldn’t paint it the way I saw it in my disturbed or joyful mood… That happened often… So in one such case I began to scratch away what I had painted—I searched my memory for the first image—the first impression—and tried to recover it’ (quoted in K. A. Schröder & A. Hoerschelmann, eds., Edvard Munch: Theme and Variation, exh. cat., Vienna, 2001, p. 271). Unable to paint without expressing his innermost emotions, Munch used imagined, heightened colours and simplified line and form to render his experience and perception of the world around him.

The swirling bands of intense colour, flattened rendition of form, and varied, distinctive application of paint in Hage reflect the critical shift that Munch’s art underwent at the turn of the century. Alongside his renewed interest in landscape, ‘surface treatment, ornamental effect, and composition’ were, as the artist himself explained, the characteristic features of this development (quoted in O. Storm Bjerke, ‘Meaning and Physicality in the Art of Munch,’ in D. Buchhart, ed., Edvard Munch: Signs of Modern Art, exh. cat., Basel, 2007, p. 30). Most significantly, Munch’s palette became extraordinarily vivid and his brushwork very loose, evidenced here in the swirling, flowing strokes of the green and gold along the horizon line, and the soft, almost effervescent passages of paint throughout the foreground. Munch concentrated increasingly on decorative simplicity and planar forms through this period, as he strove to translate experience into image, fulfilling his vision that ‘art [came] directly from man’s inner being’ (quoted in op. cit., 2003, p. 131).

Hage was first owned by Rolf Stenersen, the esteemed Norwegian Olympian, writer and stockbroker who became a close friend and patron of Munch’s. Stenersen’s interest in the arts had emerged at a young age—he reportedly sold his confirmation gifts in order to fund the purchase of his first painting, much to his parents bemusement. Determined to meet Munch in person, he visited the artist at his home when he was just eighteen years old, and boldly introduced himself, initiating what would prove to be a long and fruitful relationship between the two men. Over the years, Stenersen assembled an outstanding collection of art that developed from Munch’s advice to ‘buy what strikes you as new and good, strange and peculiar’ (Munch, quoted in ‘The Art Collector Rolf Stenersen,’ https://www.munchmuseet.no/en/our-collection/the-art-collector-rolf-stenersen/; accessed 15 Jan 2024, 14.52).

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