Landscape was an important genre for Munch. In the years around the turn of the century, he created a number of landscapes with winter motifs from Nordstrand just outside the capital. In the painting Winter we find ourselves gazing into a dark spruce forest illuminated by light reflected from the snow-covered earth. Although there are no people here, we see traces in the snow, where some lonely traveller has passed along the path in the foreground. The mood is heavy with silence and meditative calm.
The picture is sketchily painted. We see how the brush has swept over the snow-covered trees in quick, gentle arcs. In many places the underlying brown cardboard is visible through the thin layer of oil paint. The picture’s fine balance between straight and curved lines, dark and light areas, between flat expanses and perspective effects is typical of Munch’s landscape art. Through the simplification of form and the play of line he draws attention to the picture surface. At the same time, the sloping line of the path, the rapidly diminishing height of the trees and the subtle light effects all establish the forest as a space.
Like many Scandinavian artists around this period, Munch was interested in what was generally referred to as the landscape of the mind. “Nature is not visible only to the eye. It is also the soul’s inner pictures – pictures on the back of the eye,” as Munch himself put it. The artist is rooted in a concrete landscape, while at the same time emphasising the subjective experience of nature’s mystical aspect through his personal use of composition, light, colour and form.
The painting was purchased for the National Gallery in 1901.
Text: Frithjof Bringager
From "Edvard Munch in the National Museum", Nasjonalmuseet 2008, ISBN 978-82-8154-035-54