Scandinavia is internationally renowned for its literary heritage. Ibsen and Strindberg are well-known to the popular imagination, as are Kierkegaard and Knausgaard, the Nordic myths and sagas, The Killing and the scandal-rocked Swedish Academy. But why is it that in visual art, Scandinavia has only one global contender – Edvard Munch?
Even then, Munch is only really known for one painting. Walking with friends above the cityscape of Oslo, Munch suddenly saw the sky turn blood red as the sun went down, and he was overcome with an awful anxiety. “Nature was screaming in my blood,” he later recorded in his diary. A new exhibition at the British Museum prominently displays Munch’s dark, ominous etchings, the unreal subjects, with their sharp cheekbones and hollow eye-sockets, appearing visibly on the threshold of death.
But Munch was far from alone in his awe of Scandinavia’s sublime vistas. A smaller gallery on the other side of London is playing host to fellow Norwegian artist Harald Sohlberg.