Edvard Munch and the National Galleryet

230
0 min

Transcription

Narrator:  

Perhaps you think of Edvard Munch as a genius who was misunderstood in his own lifetime? An artist who was only recognized by major institutions after his death? 

In fact, Norway’s National Gallery bought its first picture by Munch in 1891, when he was just 28 years old. Munch had submitted three paintings to the National Autumn Exhibition. The National Gallery bought one, taking ownership of its very first Munch – for two-hundred kroner. 

Nils Messel has a doctorate in art history and has worked for many years at the National Museum. He explains how Munch was recognized as a genius at an early stage. 

Nils Messel:  

We Norwegians needed a genius. We weren't so fond of the word, although it did get used, to show how important this man was, not just for Norwegian art, but also for Nordic art, and not just for Nordic art, but also for Germanic art. In his time, he was seen as the most important Germanic artist in Europe.  

Of course it was fantastic for him to have a work bought by our national collection, and get so much fuss made of him. The National Gallery was cleared completely in 1927 so that it could host the biggest exhibition of Munch's art yet. Doing that was extremely unusual.   

Narrator:  

As early as 1924, Edvard Munch had a room permanently dedicated to his work at the National Gallery. He was the only Norwegian artist ever to have his own room.   

Nils Messel: 

Even so, he wasn’t satisfied with the room, because there were other rooms leading off it. He wanted to have a room where visitors had to enter and leave through the same doorway. 

Narrator:  

Although Munch was concerned about how the public should see his art, he was a shy artist, who did not attend even when the National Gallery dedicated a fine new room to him as part of its centenary celebrations in 1937 and invited the king to the opening ceremony.

Nils Messel: 

He instead went on a trip out of town. He wasn’t very interested in mixing with the rest of us. 

Narrator:  

But the public took Munch to their hearts. For the exhibition in 1927, there were special trains with reduced fares to bring visitors all the way from Trondheim in the middle of Norway and Bergen on the west coast. Over thirty-thousand people saw the exhibition.

Nils Messel: 

It was quite fantastic. And it’s certainly not surprising that even today we have this beautiful Munch Room dedicated to Munch’s work!