- Artist: Edvard Munch
- Creation date: 1891
- Object type: Painting
In 1889, when Munch received a bursary from the Norwegian state, he went to Paris, where he familiarised himself with the period’s contemporary painters. The big city and modern life. Rhythm, pulse and movement.
In the second half of the 19th century, Paris underwent major changes in its urban planning. Old buildings and districts were torn down to make way for long, broad, straight avenues and boulevards. These rapidly became part of the city’s visual identity and a popular subject for many of the period’s most influential artists, who were interested in depicting life in the modern metropolis.
The vantage point, the dramatic perspective and the diffuse form in this picture owe a lot to impressionist painting. The paint is applied in rhythmical, speckled and slanting strokes creating a radiant, vibrant overall effect. Here Munch has combined a punctual brushstroke with a concise style that points beyond the subject matter that is actually registered.
In spring 1891, Munch occupied rooms at Rue Lafayette no. 49. Presumably it is the view from his own rooms that he has taken as the basis for this painting. To the left we glimpse the Rue Drouot and the Rue Faubourg-Montmartre. The impression of bustling, pulsating life out on the street is offset by the sombre figure on the balcony. The painting shows Munch’s strong interest in impressionism during this period. It remained, however, an interlude, and in the years that followed he preferred to explore other directions.
The picture was purchased for the National Gallery in 1933 with funds donated by Olaf Schou.
Born 1863 in Løten, Hedmark, death 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.