The painting depicts a typical Eastern Norwegian farmyard on a warm summer’s eve. The workday is over, and a horse rests beneath a large, shady tree, while the man in the centre of the picture is having a chat with a woman through an open window; in the overgrown garden, roses are blooming. Gerhard Munthe has meticulously depicted the details of this scene and captured the special lighting. The viewer is guided effortlessly into the picture from the tree on the left, through the horse and toward the man stavnding by the house. The viewer’s gaze is then led onward to the sunlit left end of the house, and we can barely make out the outhouse all the way on the left. The colouring is subdued, with an emphasis on nuances of green in the vegetation and of grey in the outside walls of the house.
Already as a young art student in Munich in the 1870s, Munthe decided to depict the landscape that he knew from his formative years in Eastern Norway. He found a treasure trove of scenes and images in the area’s calm, unhurried cultural landscapes, where human activity flourished. Many of the paintings seem like odes to everyday life and are often imbued with an intimate, peaceful atmosphere. Inspired by French plein-air painting, Munthe became one of the first Norwegian artists to categorically work outdoors and realistically depict the scene at hand. After moving back to Norway from Munich in 1882, he would often frequent the villages of Hedmark in order to paint, and it was there, amidst the hills sloping down toward Lake Mjøsa, that he found the scenery for At the Farm, Ulvin. Gerhard Munthe was a highly versatile artist who made a lasting mark as a painter, illustrator, designer, and author. His art evolved in pace with the shifting trends of realism, neo-romanticism, and symbolism.
Text: Frithjof Bringager
From "Highlights. Art from Antiquity to 1945", Nasjonalmuseet 2014, ISBN 978-82-8154-088-0