Collections and research

Edvard Munch in the National Museum

The Girls on the Pier, ca. 1901

Oil on canvas, 136 x 125 cm
NG.M.00844

© Nasjonalmuseet / Munch-museet / Munch-Ellingsen-gruppen / BONO 2010.
Foto: Jacques Lathion / Nasjonalmuseet

This painting indicates a new departure in Munch’s art. It was created shortly after the turn of the century after Munch had absorbed impressions of monumental renaissance art during a journey to Italy. The image of the three girls leaning over the balustrade, the mansion with the large tree and the full moon in the bright summer night is laden with mystery.

In 1897, having bought a little house at Åsgårdstrand, Munch remarked: “To walk around here is like walking among my pictures. I feel such an urge to paint when walking around in Åsgårdstrand”. The shoreline with its many bays and treetops reflected in the water are familiar from other landscape paintings. The undulating rhythm of the lines is comparable to the art nouveau style. The diagonal of the balustrade is reminiscent of The Scream, although here the sloping perspective lines are intercepted by the horizontal white garden wall.

The artist summarises his complete visual impression in a simplified composition in which nature, buildings and the figures interact to create an atmosphere of contemplation. His palette is brighter and fresher than in the pictures of the 1890s. Together with the beigepink of the road and the bridge, the subdued green and blue tones help to create the lyrical nocturnal mood, which is enhanced by the pale yellow moon. The white, red and green dresses of the young girls boldly accentuate the use of colour. There exist many versions of this picture, which was one of Munch’s most popular motifs.

The painting was donated to the museum by Olaf Schou in 1909.

FH