From one of Oslo’s most beautiful lookouts, Edvard Munch found inspiration for one of the world's most famous paintings – The Scream.
Text: Morten Andre Samdal
Munch painted The Scream in Nice, late in the autumn of 1893 – far removed from the place where the painter actually conceived the iconic image. This place can be visited anytime. To get to Ekebergskrenten (the “Ekeberg Slope”) you will have to follow one of the many overgrown, twisting and steep paths from the Old Town east in Oslo.
Amid the painter's thousands of pages of memoirs, a few sentences review the walk that would change the history of art.
“I was walking along the road with two friends – then the sun went down – the sky was all of a sudden crimson red – I stopped, leaning into the fence of death – over the blue and black fjord and the city of blood and tongues of fire – my friends were walking ahead and I was left shaking with anxiety – and I felt that it was a large infinite scream roaring through nature.”
Ekeberg is a popular destination, for its modernist restaurant, the new sculpture park – and the astonishing view. Beneath us as we traverse the path, the capital reveals itself. We see the award-winning architectural masterpiece, the Oslo Opera House; the still-empty place where the new, landmark Munch Museum will open in 2019, and, in the distance – the Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art, one of the nation's leading exhibitors of contemporary art from home and abroad. Legendary architect Renzo Piano designs its new home. Nearby, the new National Museum, too, is under construction – and will house several of Munch’s own works.
One can see all the way to Grünerløkka, one of the city's most popular neighbourhoods for artists and artisans today. It was also here – at Olaf Ryes plass – that Edvard Munch as a poor painter started on his long road to the starry skies.
Today, most people around the world know about him. Everybody has a relationship to the expressive painter with his very distinctive style. Few people, however, know that Munch was Norwegian.
“There may be several reasons for this,” says Hans Richard Elgheim, a leading Munch expert. “Apart from the fact that he lived in Germany at the time of his breakthrough, his art is also un-Norwegian in the sense that nationality is often linked to themes. We see no immediate national romantic presence in his pictures, like we do, for example, in the pictures of Tiedemann and Gude, and other major Norwegian artists”. Munch, he explains, was different. “He rather pinpointed and cared for existential questions about life, love, death and anxiety. He was an expressionist, and keen to get his feelings straight out onto the canvas. He was not one to hide behind conventions or a particular painting technique. He was a pioneer, and his art is universal.”
There are many myths about Munch – “the lone genius.” His life was marked by turmoil, anxiety and never-ending questions. He did not – like his father – solace in faith. What helped him was to paint, and what he painted was a reflection of his own mind.
With Oslo as a starting point, there are several historical places to visit to get a glimpse of Munch’s life and work.
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