Aasgaardstrand was central to much of Munch's life - many of his happiest and, conversely, most troubled times were had there. It featured in his art to the extent that it appears almost as a character in its own right. The same houses and features appear in many of his most iconic works - this landscape that he knew so well was a natural template through which, with variations of movement, colour and atmosphere, he could translate his mood and feelings, a vital means of catharsis for the tormented artist.
Painted in Aasgaardstrand in 1905, the sparse, quiet atmosphere in Huset ved Stranden ('House by the Shore') belies the turmoil in the life of the great Norwegian artist, and indeed the turmoil in Norway itself. It was in 1905 that the union between Sweden and Norway, imposed upon the latter after the Napoleonic Wars, was dissolved. The Norwegians feared imminent invasion, repetitions of the violence and tyranny exerted on them ninety years earlier, and Munch, unstable at the best of times, was heavily affected by the paranoia that engulfed the nation. He retreated to the resort of Aasgaardstrand, to which he had been a frequent visitor since 1889. This was a place, in theory, of calm and solace. However, the mood of violence resulted in Munch arming himself, challenging visitors and eventually injuring himself in a fight with another artist.
Huset ved Stranden shows little of this angst. There is a tranquility in this scene, a rare moment of respite for the artist. This tranquility is accentuated by the light, bright colours - Munch's visit to Paris in 1903 had a great impact on his palette, which lightened up in reaction to the works of the French Post-Impressionists. Accompanying this lyricism is the sinuous flowing brushstroke synonymous with his metaphysical and more tortured paintings of the 1890s.
Shortly after Huset ved Stranden was painted, it entered the Museum Folkwang in Essen where it stayed for several decades. This museum dedicated itself to contemporary art, and was a strong supporter of such artists as Gauguin and Van Gogh, hence the interest in Munch's work. However, in 1937 Huset ved Stranden was confiscated by the Nazis, along with much of the museum's collection, as an example of 'degenerate art'. Fortunately, rather than destroying the painting, the German authorities sold the work to an Oslo-based dealer, allowing the picture to leave Germany.
Haus in Aasgaardstrand
Oil on canvas
PROPERTY FROM A DISTINGUISHED PRIVATE COLLECTION
Mannheim, Städtische Kunsthalle, 1926, cat. 20.
Berlin, Nationalgalerie, 1927, no. 94.
Venice, XXVII Biennale, 1954, no. 25.
Munich, Haus der Kunst, Edvard Munch, 1954-1955, no. 61, p. 29, fig. 38 (illustrated).
39 3/8 x 51 3/8 in. (100 x 130.5 cm.)
J.P. Hodin, Edvard Munch. Nordens genius, Stockholm, 1948, fig. 103.
Exh. cat., Edvard Munch, sommernacht am Oslofjord um 1900, Städtische Kunsthalle, Mannheim, 1988, p. 266 (illustrated).
Niels Werring, Oslo.
Folkwang-Museum, Essen (until 1937).
Horst Halvorsen, Oslo (1939).