Jeg sitter i det eneste hyggelige huset jeg har boet i – i Åsgårdstrand

The person Munch

Summer Night by the Beach, 1902-03 (c) Munch-museet/Munch-Ellingsen Gruppen/BONO 2013

Summer Night by the Beach, 1902-03 (c) Munch-museet/Munch-Ellingsen Gruppen/BONO 2013

Åsgårdstrand attracted Edvard Munch.  As soon as he arrived he felt at peace, felt joy and inspiration.  Among the local people he received support and felt secure.  They assisted him in many practical ways, as handy men, and housekeeper.Here, during the summers, Munch enjoyed a carefree life as described by his friend Christian Gierløff; all day long the sun was shining, and we let it burn.  Munch has painted bathing people, but most of the day we stayed on the beach – no need for bathing suits – getting more and more lazy. While our only concerns circled about being lazy, and throwing flat stones in the water that, Munch painted people bathing.

Gierløff continues to describe how they gradually stirred to life in the evening, tired of being lazy, and covering up.  “When the sun disappears, the blood starts circulating.  Then the moon arises in the east and appears like a bridge right in front of our feet.  Munch stands in front of his easel; He paints the moon and its bridge.  The moon is his monopoly.  Lucky moon!”

 

 

Kiøsterudgården, 1904 (c) Munch-museet/Munch-Ellingsen Gruppen/BONO 2013

Kiøsterudgården, 1904 (c) Munch-museet/Munch-Ellingsen Gruppen/BONO 2013

Munch’s friend and relative, Ludvig Ravensberg, writes about his visits to Munch’s House.  Every morning Munch wakes him up with the same quote:  “the sun is up on a bright clear day.  The rooster greets with the strokes of his wings”.The days passed rapidly in Munch’s company. Munch himself was always in splendid humor, constantly getting new ideas.  He forgot his worries. When painting his work absorbed him completely.

The latest activity, Gierløff writes, takes place on the beach as well as in the garden of Edvard Munch;  gun shooting.  “Most of us kept one or two guns and we would arrange shooting competition.  All of a sudden – on a quiet day in Åsgårdstrand – shots are fired, scaring some the local people.  Among the painters, Alfred Hauge and Munch are proud to proclaim themselves superior.  The target is placed at the beach and quite often the bullets miss the target and strike the water”. Munch is never without pleasure and entertainment in his immediate surroundings.  Åsgårdstrand sustained four shoemakers, all of them limp.  Kristoffersen walked with crutches.  Further down the street you would find the lame Mr. Bjørnsen.  A few steps further on we would greet the shoemaker Flesberg, constantly on one foot, either standing tall on one leg and short on the other while entertaining himself with small talk at his doorsteps.  The fourth limp shoemaker, “Pinken”, fond of beer as well as a “dram”, often found himself twice as unsteady staggering along “Spinning Street”.  Jørgen Sluta, also limp, constantly complained about arthritis in his wooden leg ….

Trees by the Beach  1902  (c) Munch-museet/Munch-Ellingsen Gruppen/BONO 2013

Trees by the Beach 1902 (c) Munch-museet/Munch-Ellingsen Gruppen/BONO 2013

Edvard Munch gained respect in Åsgårdstrand.  People liked him.  He had the reputation of being hard working, unassuming, and a dependable man.  When abroad, the people in Åsgårdstrand were quite often in his mind.  He mailed money and presents.  Carl Johan Book, said to have been one of his closest friends in Åsgårdstrand, lived there as a gardener together with his wife and daughters Paulina, Petra, and Carola.  Once in Rome Edvard Munch remembered that Carola soon would celebrate her birthday.  He went straight into a doll store, carefully selected a doll and mailed the doll to Carola in Åagårdstrand.  Could it be the same doll as in his painting?  Petra Book served as Munch’s housekeeper and as a model.  On the way north to the forest, you will pass Skaustua, the home of the Book family. South of the house there are several fruit trees still standing as witness to Book’s green fingers.

Harald Langen, Munch’s caretaker for almost 50 years, told that he had asked Munch on numerous occasions if he could buy his house in Åsgårdstrand. “As long as I am alive the house will not be sold.  When I pass away anyone can fight about it”        Langen said that Munch lived a simple life in Åsgårdstrand.  “Quite often he stood while eating, often his meal consisted of just a little wine”.

Mr. Larsen confirms that Munch was well accepted among the population. “He had a good heart. One time he mailed 100 kroner from Berlin for Christmas as gifts for the poor and needy in Åsgårdstrand.  Munch specified their names in his letter.  He was generous to his friends. – In 1904 my wife received an etching. – On my birthday I received a selfportrait by Munch.  One day on no special occasion my wife got a large envelop by mail from Munch.  She opened it excitedly, and out flew a manmade butterfly up in the ceiling!  According to Larsen Munch’s finances were not too bad. “Sometimes his budget was strained and I would lend him some money which he would return immediately.  When he was abroad he would send money to cover taxes and dues.  We took care of his garden and planted seeds in his vegetable garden, which he highly appreciated.

His sister Inger and aunt Karen also write about Åsgårdstrand, and Munch’s longing to go there. Their correspondence deals with imminent repairs and how he enjoys “this small house”.  In a letter dated September 5th 1904 aunt Karen writes: “We are thrilled to learn that you have returned to your house safely and can enjoy life in peace and quiet. I imagine that your garden looks pretty.  Perhaps there are still some vegetables left”. Aunt Karen also explains how well they are treated in Åsgårdstrand when they are there by themselves. “This will be our last Sunday here.  Towards the end of the week we will return home to Nordstrand. We are most grateful for a pleasant stay which did not even cost much, with   all the vegetables and berries we could harvest from the garden.  Inger has gained weight and looks healthy.  Once again I thank you for sending us so much money.  The other day we met Mr. Nørregaard and his wife onboard the steam ship.  They told us that you have recovered, about your work, and all the recognition you have received abroad.  They were full of enthusiasm!  Nørregaard really is a real, true friend… – Because of you the people in Åsgårdstrand treat us with respect.  When hearing your name only the fishermen give us fish on credit.”

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