The Norwegian painter and graphic artist Edvard Munch (1863 – 1944) spent eighteen months in Warnemünde, on the Baltic Sea in northeast Germany, between May 1907 and October 1908. After long, restless periods in Berlin, Lübeck, and Weimar, he had sought out that peaceful seaside locale. Already highly popular at the fin-de-siècle, the atmosphere of Warnemünde’s spa attracted Munch strongly, offering him above all a hope of shedding physical and mental stress, together with a chance for sustained, intensive work.
In early June 1907, the guest-list of the spa’s local gazette, the Warnemünder Badeanzeiger, announced the arrival of the “art painter” from Norway. After a short stay in Hosmann’s Hotel, he took up residence at Am Strom 53, in the house of harbor pilot Carl Nielsen. Munch felt invigorated by Warnemünde’s air, with its high ozone concentration, and by the area’s healthful climate in general. The creative period he spent at this resort town is recorded in the artist’s sketchbooks, paintings, and photographs. Alongside landscapes, genre paintings, and portraits, important works emerged in these months on the Baltic coast, including “Bathing Men” and the “Green Room” series. They point to Edvard Munch’s physical and emotional well being in Warnemünde.
In October 1908 Munch suddenly left the town—an unexpected departure sorely felt by those who had housed him and—despite Munch’s difficult personality—learned to cherish his presence. Investing much heart and effort, they themselves arranged the shipping of his works and personal possessions. The painter’s departure from Germany would turn out to be permanent—but following eight uninterrupted years of life in that country, he would leave a decisive mark on developments within German modern art.
The Edvard Munch House is one of the few extant fisherman’s houses in Warnemünde. This type of house can be traced back to the seventeenth century. In the historical fishing village’s records, we already find mention of two streets in 1623, one of which was the Vörreg, now called Am Strom (“On the River”). This is the street on which the Munch House is located.
Because of the extended chain of sand-dunes behind the beach, the land available for development was limited and the houses’ foundations very narrow, hence unusually deep. Traditionally, the interior rooms were reached through a long corridor called a Deel and were entered one by one: first the front room
(Vörstuw), then the kitchen (Kök), followed by the back room (Achternstuw).
Attached to the front house was lodging for old people and later, often, a rear house. The narrow interior court was used as a garden and quite often as a stall.
An earlier structure was possibly already located on plot no. 53, in the seventeenth century. As indicated, in 1907 the modest house at this address was owned by harbor pilot Carl Nielsen, who shared it with sailor Albert Nielsen and Catharina Holtz, a widow. In 1918, the fisher Albert Harms bought the house, living there with his wife and daughter Liselotte until the end of his life. Liselotte Zander, born Harms, continued to live in the house until her death in 1990, aged 79, after which it was declared a historical landmark.
In order to preserve both memory of Edvard Munch and the culturally and architecturally interesting fisherman’s house at Am Strom 53, the Edvard-Munch-Haus e.V. was established in December 1904. With generous support from German and Norwegian industry and private sponsors, the association was able to purchase the house in 1996; following extensive restoration, its opening ceremony was held on 11 May 1998 under the patronage of the president of the Norwegian parliament, Kirsti Kolle Gröndal and German Bundestag president Rita Süssmuth.
The first two guest artists from, respectively, Norway and Germany already moved into the house in September 1998, marking a renewal of its artistic importance and legacy.
The name Edvard Munch can be understood as a synonym for a long period of cultural exchange between Norway and Germany. The association’s main purpose is to foster this tradition, mediating contemporary ideas for enduring cultural encounters between the two countries.
In this way the Edvard Munch House serves at one and the same time as a memorial center and a forum for shaping the future—on a practical level, as a studio and shared stage for artists from, for the most part, Norway and Germany. The EMH invites artists working in all conceivable media to live and work within the house’s historical ambience. Readings, concerts, and exhibitions compliment our artistic program.
"I‘ve taken up residence in Warnemünde, a German version of Åsgårdstrand, and have rented a fisherman’s house."
Edvard Munch to Karen Bjolstad, 1907
(Karen Bjölstad, 1839 – 1931, was Munch`s foster mother and his mother’s younger sister.)
"Fresh air and good financial conditions have produced great things. I’m feeling much better. Since the summer I’ve been living on porridge, milk, bread, and fish....Now I feel reborn."
Munch to Ernest Thiel, September 1907
(Ernest Thiel, 1859 – 1947, was a Swedish financier and art collector.)
"I’m thinking of peacefully staying here for a long time.…I now have a charming little place here.…live in a very orderly way and work when I feel like it.…Now I’ll see what I can accomplish in this new peaceful state of mind!"
Munch to Gustav Schiefler, 12 April 1908
(Gustav Schiefler, 1857 - 1935, was a judge in Hamburg, and an art collector, reviewer, and patron. He specialized in Expressionism and was associated with the Brücke movement.)
"I‘ve packed up all my work in Warnemünde and it’s unlikely I’ll stay there longer. It’s also in the end a dreadfully bourgeois place and simply doesn’t suit me.…!"
Munch to Schiefler, 1908