Winter in the Woods

  • Artist: Edvard Munch
  • Creation date: (1899)
  • Object type: Painting

Not on display


Landscape was an important genre for Munch. In the years around the turn of the century, he created a number of landscapes with winter motifs from Nordstrand just outside the capital. In the painting Winter we find ourselves gazing into a dark spruce forest illuminated by light reflected from the snow-covered earth. Although there are no people here, we see traces in the snow, where some lonely traveller has passed along the path in the foreground. The mood is heavy with silence and meditative calm.

The picture is sketchily painted. We see how the brush has swept over the snow-covered trees in quick, gentle arcs. In many places the underlying brown cardboard is visible through the thin layer of oil paint. The picture’s fine balance between straight and curved lines, dark and light areas, between flat expanses and perspective effects is typical of Munch’s landscape art. Through the simplification of form and the play of line he draws attention to the picture surface. At the same time, the sloping line of the path, the rapidly diminishing height of the trees and the subtle light effects all establish the forest as a space.

Like many Scandinavian artists around this period, Munch was interested in what was generally referred to as the landscape of the mind. “Nature is not visible only to the eye. It is also the soul’s inner pictures – pictures on the back of the eye,” as Munch himself put it. The artist is rooted in a concrete landscape, while at the same time emphasising the subjective experience of nature’s mystical aspect through his personal use of composition, light, colour and form.

The painting was purchased for the National Gallery in 1901.

Text: Frithjof Bringager

From "Edvard Munch in the National Museum", Nasjonalmuseet 2008, ISBN 978-82-8154-035-54


Edvard Munch

Visual artist, Painter, Graphic artist, Photographer, Drawing artist

Born 12.12.1863 in Løten, Hedmark, death 23.01.1944 in Oslo

Edvard Munch worked as an artist for over sixty years. He was creative, ambitious and hardworking. He produced nearly two thousand paintings, hundreds of graphic motifs and thousands of drawings. In addition, he wrote poems, prose and diaries. The Scream, Madonna, Death in the Sickroom and the other symbolist works from the 1890s have made him one of the most famous artists of our time.

"Don't become an artist!"

Edvard wanted to become an artist early on, and there was no doubt that he had talent. But his father refused to allow him to follow his dream, so Edvard began studying engineering. But already after one year he chose to defy his father, and switched from engineering college to the Norwegian National Academy of Craft and Art Industry in Kristiania, now Oslo.

A talented and provocative bohemian

It was obvious to everyone in the Norwegian art community that the young man showed rare talent. In 1883, at the age of 20, he debuted at Høstutstillingen (The Autumn Exhibition). In 1886, Munch became acquainted with author and anarchist Hans Jæger, a leading figure in the Kristiania bohemian community. The bohemian community convinced Munch that the arts had to renew themselves to reach people and to have relevance in their lives. In the same year he exhibited the painting The Sick Child. This generated debate!

Courage led to breakthrough

Some acclaimed The Sick Child a work of genius, while others deemed it unfinished and unworthy of exhibition. Today it is considered to mark Munch's breakthrough. It was here that demonstrated the independence and willingness to break fresh ground.

From this point until his final brush strokes, his artistic practice can be summed up in just word: experimentation. Munch did not care about established "rules" for so-called good art. His techniques in both painting and graphics were innovative.

From people's emotional life to agriculture and landscape

Henrik Ibsen's plays about humanity's existential challenges inspired Munch. Themes such as death, love, sexuality, jealousy and anxiety were central to his early images. Some themes sprang from personal experience. For example, Death in the Sickroom and The Sick Child are linked to his memory of his mother and sister's illnesses and early deaths.

After 1910, Munch chose a quieter and secluded life. At his own farms at Ekely in Oslo and in Hvitsten, he found entirely new motifs, such as agriculture, working life and landscapes. Man in the Cabbage Field is a typical example from this period.

Work info