On a visit to Oslo, there were three museums I wanted to visit, but I only had time for one. Therefore, the centrally-located National Museum of Art made the cut, and I have two more museums I need to see on my next trip!
Oslo’s National Museum of Art is definitely worth the trip on your next visit. It’s a good-sized, but not overwhelming museum, and there were good audio guides included in the price of the ticket.
Although the Munch Room is the most famous, and contains one of the world’s most recognizable paintings – don’t make a beeline there. There’s plenty more to see.
It was interesting to see how – in the absence of serious art institutes in Norway many years ago – Norwegian artists would go to train first in Dresden, and later in Paris and Rome. Those artists often adopted styles they learned there.
But luckily, there were many artists who painted homegrown scenes, and there are many interesting examples at this museum, including Brudeferden i Hardanger (Bridal journey in Hardanger) painted by Norwegian romantic nationalism painter Adolph Tidemand in 1848. The painting depicts the natural beauty of Norway’s fjords and the traditions surrounding the bride’s journey to her new home.
I also loved “Two girls on a plain”, painted in 1883 by Erik Theodor Werenskiold. Werenskiold was known for his depictions of Norwegian peasant life , and I enjoyed this depiction of these two young girls (friends? sisters?) taking a break from their grueling labor to chat and enjoy the weak sunlight as they observe the landscape around them.
After all, they probably know all too well that the winter months won’t afford such time for leisure and quite contemplation.
And then there are depictions of Norway’s harsh and imposing – yet beautiful – nature, particularly in Thomas Fernley’s Grindelwaldgletscher, painted in 1838.
This monumental, romantic scene depicts the power of nature and inspires awe, even more so because beside this glacier stands a man observing the ice formation. He is a mere speck beside the mighty glacier.
Although the Norwegian romantic painters deserve a visit, it is Norway’s most famous son who attracts all the crowds – and the room dedicated to him is the highlight of the museum.
Edvard Much (1863-1944) is Norway’s most famous artist, and The Scream, painted in 1893, is his most recognizable painting. The painting needs no introduction and, not surprisingly, it enjoys the largest crowd around it.
Knowing about the embarrassing history of thefts of this iconic painting – one such theft in which a post-it was left by the thieves in the space it previously occupied suggesting the museum invest in better security – I expected it to be, well, more closely guarded.
But Oslo is not Paris or New York, so it was nice to be able to admire this painting up close without the glass and barriers in place.
The Dance of Life (1899) is also there, the painting thought to follow a woman through the various stages of her life: young and virginal in white, at the height of her sexual power on the dance floor (with a partner believed to be a self-portrait of Munch himself), and a much more ravaged version clad in black on the far left. The moon creates a phallic symbol on the sea, perhaps symbolizing fertility. It’s an arresting painting, one I saw many years ago at a Munch exhibition, but I was thrilled to see it in its natural home.
I’ve chosen two of my favorites, but all of the Munch collection is impressive to see – and next time in Oslo I will also get to the dedicated Munch Museum, although I’ve seen much of the (impressive) collection at a Swiss exhibition years ago.
So be sure to visit Oslo’s National Gallery on your next visit to Norway.