A photo-certificate from the Munch-museet dated Oslo, 22 December 2000 will accompany this work.
In 1909 Munch returned to Norway following a time spent recovering from a nervous breakdown in a clinic in Copenhagen. On his return, he settled in Kragerø on the South coast and began work on two motifs, studies for which he submitted to a competition for paintings to be hung in the Kristiania University Aula. The committee rejected one but requested that the other be developed into a full-scale version for one of the side walls. Munch responded by submitting thirty works, including four large versions of History, Researchers (later re-named Alma Mater) and The Sun. It is probable that the present work formed part of this series and may even have been the study for the side section of the left hand wall depicting two women stretching up to pick apples. Munch later reworked this motif in 1916 for the lithograph Neutrality that was used as the poster for the exhibition of Norwegian and Danish pictures in Charlottenborg in Copenhagen in the same year.
The years after Munch's breakdown saw his art develop a positive new direction in which the human becomes an imposing and monumental figure, which nevertheless interacts with nature and its surroundings. In the present work, as in the three aforementioned principal subjects, Munch has greatly simplified the elements of his landscape, incorporating his lyrical figures into a harmonious and balanced composition. In justification of his entry into the competition, Munch wrote to the committee; 'My intention was that the decorations should represent a complete and self-sufficient world of ideas, and that their pictorial expression should simultaneously be peculiarly Norwegian and also pan-human... While the three main paintings - The Sun, Researchers and History - shall be solemn and imposing like the strings of an orchestra in the hall, the others shall have a lighter effect, brighter and like wind instruments in passage to the hall's entire style, like a frame around them' (Munchs Konkurranceutkast til Universitets Festsal, Kristiania, 1911, pp. 5-6).
Munch's proposal for the Aula paintings was rejected amidst much controversy and division amongst the committee. Ironically it was the acclaim that Munch received from his activities in Germany with the young Expressionists and the Sonderbund Austellung in 1912 that finally swayed public opinion and forced the committee to reconsider its vote. In 1914 Munch was officially granted permission to complete the decorative programme of the University Aula which was unveiled in September 1916 and it was to be this major public commission that ensured his critical and financial success.