This painting, created in early 1900 after Munch had witnessed the monumental art of the Renaissance during a journey to Italy, heralds a new era in Edvard Munch’s art. The image of the three girls leaning over the parapet, the manor house with the large tree, and the full moon in the bright summer night is rife with mystery.
In 1898 Munch bought a small house at Åsgårdstrand on the Kristianiafjord, on which he once noted: “To walk around here is like walking among my pictures. I feel so inspired to paint when I walk around in Åsgårdstrand”. Famous pictures such as Melancholy, The Voice, and Moonlight found their form here while Munch spent the summers with his bohemian friends from Kristiania.
The curved shoreline and the treetops reflected in the water are familiar elements from other landscape paintings. The swaying rhythm of the lines owes much to the contemporary art nouveau style. The diagonal of the parapet is reminiscent of The Scream, although here the sloping perspective lines are intercepted by the horizontal white garden wall.
The artist summarizes all of what he saw in a simplified composition, where the nature, architecture, and figures interact to create a contemplative effect. The colours are brighter and crisper than in Munch’s pictures from the 1890s. The relaxed green and blue nuances, along with the beige-pink of the road and the bridge, create a lyrical, nocturnal mood that is enhanced by the pale yellow moon. The young girls’ dresses in white, red, and green, respectively, boldly underscore the colouring. Munch created many versions of this picture, which is one of his most popular works.
Text: Frode Haverkamp
From "Highlights. Art from Antiquity to 1945", Nasjonalmuseet 2014, ISBN 978-82-8154-088-0