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Munch Museum Presents Munch’s Laboratory. The Path to the Aula

The Munch Museum presents Munch’s Laboratory. The Path to the Aula an exhibition on view through 9 january, 2012.

The exhibition Munch’s Laboratory. The Path to the Aula is the Munch Museum’s contribution to the celebration of the 200th anniversary of the University of Oslo. The museum’s project has Munch and the 1911 celebrations as it’s historical basis. The chancellor of the University, Waldemar Christian Brøgger, had great ambitions, a few years after the dissolution of the union with Sweden in 1905. The plans included a new festival hall with monumental decorations. Munchs was interested in such a task but in 1909 when the decoration competition was announced, he was not among the invited artists. He started work yet with his first ideas and managed to position himself as a participant. The jury could in 1911 not agree on a winner. But after a long and exciting process Munch won the competition in 1914, and in 1916 he was able to install the experimental, expressionist monumental paintings in the Aula.

Edvard Munch The Sun, 1911

With time one has forgotten the boldness with which Munch made the pictures, and how hard he worked to achieve that they would be exhibited in the Aula. Today it’s difficult to understand how radical and controversial these paintings were at the time, and which important role the played in the Norwegian cultural politics between 1909 and 1916. It was a great deal of prestige to the project, the first major public art commission after the dissolution of the union in 1905. Among both artists and art commentators, it was seen as a symbol of Norway’s future as a “cultural nation”.

Through the long process Munch produced over 144 paintings on canvas, many in monumental size and a number of works on paper. In order to work in a large scale Munch had to invent new, effective techniques. On the estate “Skrubben” in Kragerø he built a large outdoor studio to work.

The exhibition provides a unique opportunity to look at Munch’s technique and methods of working. Other artists of Munch’s generation, as for example Gustav Klimt, Puvis de Chavannes and Max Klinger also chose to work for institutions such as universities, museums, libraries, and also met the challenge of creating images understandable to a wider audience. We often have the opportunity to see these images as a part of an architectural environment, but it’s rare to come close to an artist as he visualizes and develops ideas for a public decoration. This exhibition and catalogue presents as wide as possible Munch’s sketches, drafts, new ideas, variations and alternative proposals to the Aula decorations. By this we get access to Munch’s “laboratory”.

A large conservation project of the Aula sketches has been carried out in the museum parallell to the work with the exhibition.

The exhibition’s initiator is chief curator and project manager Ingebjørg Ydstie. Curator Petra Pettersen is responsible for the exhibition. Professor Patricia Berman has been a consultant for the project.

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