In 1889, when Munch received a bursary from the Norwegian state, he went to Paris, where he familiarised himself with the period’s contemporary painters. The big city and modern life. Rhythm, pulse and movement.
In the second half of the 19th century, Paris underwent major changes in its urban planning. Old buildings and districts were torn down to make way for long, broad, straight avenues and boulevards. These rapidly became part of the city’s visual identity and a popular subject for many of the period’s most influential artists, who were interested in depicting life in the modern metropolis.
The vantage point, the dramatic perspective and the diffuse form in this picture owe a lot to impressionist painting. The paint is applied in rhythmical, speckled and slanting strokes creating a radiant, vibrant overall effect. Here Munch has combined a punctual brushstroke with a concise style that points beyond the subject matter that is actually registered.
In spring 1891, Munch occupied rooms at Rue Lafayette no. 49. Presumably it is the view from his own rooms that he has taken as the basis for this painting. To the left we glimpse the Rue Drouot and the Rue Faubourg-Montmartre. The impression of bustling, pulsating life out on the street is offset by the sombre figure on the balcony. The painting shows Munch’s strong interest in impressionism during this period. It remained, however, an interlude, and in the years that followed he preferred to explore other directions.
The picture was purchased for the National Gallery in 1933 with funds donated by Olaf Schou.
Text: Øystein Ustvedt
From "Edvard Munch in the National Museum", Nasjonalmuseet 2008, ISBN 978-82-8154-035-54