Munch walk

Walk in the footsteps of Edvard Munch and his father's family

Edvard Munch is Norway's best-known artist and a world-class painter. He was both recognised and controversial in his lifetime, and many people viewed him as shy, selfish and focused on himself and his own art.

While walking in Munch's footsteps in Vågå, you will discover that he had other sides too. Edvard Munch was interested in how the genes we inherit shape us. Munch's father's family was from Vågå, and as a young man Munch travelled here to seek out his roots. He maintained a close relationship to Vågå throughout his life, visiting several times and thinking of Vågå often.

Now you have two choices

  1. Learn about Edvard Munch's strong affiliation with Vågå and discover new aspects of the world-famous painter and writer.
    DISCOVER THE MUNCH In VÅGÅ

  2. Plan a day in Vågå to go in Edvard Munch's footsteps and out-reach places he visited and that was important for him.
    GO IN MUNCH FOOTSTEPS

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About Edvard Munch

Edvard Munch is considered one of the world's most renowned artists. He was born on 12 December 1863 in Løten in Hedmark, to parents Laura and Christian Munch. His father's family was from Vågå, and included pastors, artists and scientists. Edvard Munch died on 23 January 1944 at Ekely in Aker (now Oslo), at 80 years of age.

Childhood and upbringing

Edvard Munch’s childhood was characterised by a lot of illness, and he had to stay indoors for long periods in the winter. The home and studies of the family were important in his early development as an artist. His parents, Laura and Christian, were Christian, as were much of the extended family. His paternal grandfather, Edvard Storm Munch, was a provost in Kristiania, and his great-grandfather Peder Sørensen Munch was a pastor in Vågå. Past generations were a frequent topic of conversation in the family home, and a portrait of Edvard Munch’s great-grandmother Christine Storm Munch hung above his bed, and his sister Inger Marie often visited Vågå at the Ullinsvin parsonage.

There were five siblings: Johanne Sophie (1862), Edvard (1863), Peter Andreas (1865), Laura Cathrine (1867) and Inger Marie (1868). Their father worked as a military doctor, and was known for being friendly and sociable.  The family moved around Kristiania a lot, and had the material necessities of life.

The mother, Laura, was frequently ill and died of tuberculosis on 29 December 1868. Afterwards, Laura’s younger sister Karen Bjølstad moved into the flat to manage the household and look after the children. Edvard Munch became her favourite, and later in life he tried to return some of the care he received by writing letters and providing money. The father went through something like a personality change after his wife died, and his rages would frighten the children. At times he was a present and warm dad who told fairy tales and anecdotes. At other times, he was strict, distant and irascible. He was caring, but at times this was expressed through constant anxiety over Edvard and the other children’s health. In 1877, Edvard Munch’s older sister Johanne Sophie died of tuberculosis, so Edvard experienced death at close hand several times during childhood and adolescence.  His father and his brother Andreas also died when Edvard was a young man, while his sister Laura struggled with significant psychiatric problems throughout her life. It was therefore his youngest sister, Inger Marie, and his aunt Karen that Edvard Munch remained close to his entire life.

Life as a painter

From the time he was 13 or 14, Edvard Munch started visiting art galleries by himself, and at 17 he decided to become a painter. When young, he hung around with the Kristiania bohemians, which went against everything his father stood for. Edvard Munch travelled to Copenhagen, Berlin, Paris, Rome and other big cities to create the art he wanted to create. He led a wandering life that cannot be characterised as particularly healthy, but he had an admirable work ethic and created great art during his years abroad. In his lifetime, he was both admired and despised, and constantly received a lot of attention. In 1909, he returned to Norway and turned most things in his life upside-down. He isolated himself, rarely visited cafés or met friends, but continued to work just as hard as previously. From 1916 he lived at Ekely, and in his last years Edvard Munch lived in isolation on his property and left nearly all his artistic production, texts and property to Oslo municipality.

Munch's relationship to Vågå

Edvard Munch sought out his roots to find out who he was

Vågå was often on Edvard Munch's mind. Talking about history was a way the family enjoyed time together, and through stories his father told during family parties, Vågå came to occupy a natural place in Edvard Munch's life. His father's occupation as a doctor led to a lot of moving around, and Vågå was considered a key place for the family on his father's side. Everyone in the family had to see and visit Vågå church and the Ullinsvin parsonage. Edvard Munch said that he got a lot of the inspiration for the Aula Paintings from the paintings by Henning Munch in Vågå church. Based on his letters and sketchbooks, it has been documented that Edvard Munch travelled to Vågå at least five times between 1895 and 1939.

In a note about his family, he refers to his father Christian, Edvard Storm, the painter Jacob Munch and the painter Fritz Thaulow. He also refers to Vågå in this note, writing: "The pastor Henning Munch. Pastor in Vaage in the 1600s was presumably in the family. He decorated Vaage church beautifully." During his visits here, Edvard Munch studied the outside and inside of Vågå church, and what he saw made an impression. The family tradition was to consider the Munchs at Vågå and in Lom in the 1600s a part of the family. Today, we believe that the pastor Henning Munch, who decorated Vågå church, was from a different Munch family than Edvard Munch.

Edvard Munch's trips to Vågå

1895: On 18 July, a warm and beautiful summer day, Edvard Munch walked down the Bakselabakken hill and looked out over Vågå lake and Vågåsmo for the first time. His letters and sketchbook show that he travelled from Gausdal on 11 July, and thereafter journeyed to the Fronsfjellene mountains and on to Vågå. His feet were the natural mode of transport, and it was popular among young men to take long walks to experience the mountains of Norway. In contrast to many of the other artists who were hiking during the summers, Vågå was the final destination for Edvard Munch's journey.

1919: In August, Edvard Munch takes the new Raumabanen train and writes a postcard from Åndalsnes Hotell to his sister Inger. He writes that on the return from Molde he will stop in Vågå and stay there for a few days. He then sends a postcard from Tofte in Dovre, where he stays overnight on his return. This card is sent to his aunt Karen. In it, he praises the fantastic Tofte farm. The next day, he sends a postcard to Inger. Here, it says that he travelled from Tofte and towards Vågå, but that he turned back and returned to Kristiania. He comments: "There was no trip to Vågå this time."

1930: In his sketchbook, he writes: "I must travel to the mountains to gather strength. This is needed, for others are monopolising me." On this trip to Vågå, he may have stayed in a cabin by Vågå lake that his friend Jo Visdal owned, and which the Kunstnerforbund (Artists' Association) rented out to artists. Cooking was not one of Edvard Munch's skills, so he ate at the hotel both when travelling and where he lived, and likely also when he visited Vågå.

1933: In his sketchbook, Edvard Munch draws two outbuildings on a small farm that may well be in Vågå. The sketch is dated but not named. From 1933, the Kunstnerforbund owns the Jo Visdal cabin by Vågå lake.

1934: On 5 July 1934, Edvard writes the following on a card to Inger: "I will in a while try the foreign air — Lillehammer, Vågå or some other place." He wants to get away from Oslo and includes Vågå in his plans for a possible destination.

1936: This summer, Edvard Munch is in Trondheim, where he has an exhibition and looks after a relative who was at a sanatorium for pulmonary diseases. During the same trip, he travelled to Vågå.

1937: In a letter to Jens Thiis, Edvard Munch writes: "I should travel to Gudbrandsdalen as soon as possible - Had I not been so ill I would have come to see you before I go. I have stayed indoors to finally recover fully." Here, it is probably Vågå he is thinking of. He never stopped anywhere else in Gudbrandsdalen, travelling to Vågå only, and Vågå and Gudbrandsdalen are therefore nearly synonymous for Edvard Munch.

1939: In the summer of 1939, Edvard writes to Inger: "Do you want to come along in the car and pick up some flowers from me. I will travel this evening or tomorrow on a short trip to Gudbrandsdalen." This is the last written source showing that Edvard Munch made a trip to Vågå. This also corresponds to other biographical information about Edvard Munch. From this period onwards, the painter isolated himself completely at Ekely, and was only in touch with a handful of people. Edvard Munch also did not travel to his cabin in Åsgårdstrand after 1938 and he had rented out Nedre Ramme in Hvitsten, as he was not using the property.

Listen to Great-grandmother’s portrait

The lyrics is only in Norwegian, but enjoy the atmosphere and the music.

Welcome to Vågå church

The first version of Vågå church is considered to be Norway’s second-oldest church. It was built in the period from 1100-1130, and the current church replaced it in 1627. The church is known for its beautiful interior, with paintings by Henning Munch, a baptismal font in soapstone and a richly decorated altarpiece. From June to September, the church is open Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. In July, it is also open Saturdays and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. www.vagakyrkja.com

Munch's family in Vågå

The most important people in Edvard Munch's family on his father's side

Edvard Munch's paternal family consisted of men with high positions in society. Of the women, it was especially Edvard's great-grandmother Christine Storm Munch who stood out and played a big part in family history.

  • Søren Rasmussen Munch 1686-1748

    The forefather of the family. He was a ship's captain, born in Kristiansand. Captained ships sailing under a Letter of Marque for Skagerak. Captained warships under Tordenskiold in Dynekil and attacked Gothenburg in the Great Northern War. Ended up as a hotel owner in Christiania in the 1740s.

  • Johan Storm 1740-1802

    Eager to learn, righteous and zealous priest who taught his sons until they went to university. Everyone in the family had stories about him. His library included "One Thousand and One Nights" in French!

  • Christine Storm Munch 1746-1825

    Knowledgeable and accomplished woman who governed Ullinsvin in the last part of the 17th Century. Grew and collected healing herbs and grew spices. She was known as a caring person, and helped sick villagers using natural remedies. At a time when the "cookbook" concept was not yet invented, she wrote hundreds of pages of recipes that documented the meals of the time. She gave birth to 12 children in 15 years, with the seven youngest being born at Ullinsvin. Christine Storm Munch was very interested in botany, astronomy, music, astrology and cooking. She would get down and draw pictures of stars on the floor, she played the piano and was probably the village's greatest follower of fashion, dressing in lavish clothes and flamboyant hats.

  • Edvard Storm 1749-1794

    Poet who grew up at Ullinsvin, and wrote folk songs in the Vågå dialect. These continue to be sung by folk singers to this day. He sent books and fashion magazines to his half-sister and corresponded with his brother in law.

  • Edvard Storm Munch 1780-1847

    The pastor was born on Ullinsvin in Vågå. He was a pastor in Gjerpen in Telemark and was a member of Parliament and a member of the Constitutional Court of the Realm in 1827. In 1832, he became a provost in Christiania, holding a position that was just below the Bishop. He wrote short texts about religious issues.

  • Johanne Sophie Hofgaard Munch 1810-1863

    Considered to be the foremost Norwegian historian. He was a geographer, researched the Norwegian Middle Ages, and wrote "The life and history of the Norwegian people" ("Det norske folks liv og historie") This was cutting-edge research that helped build the new Norwegian nation. World-renowned as a researcher of the Middle Ages. He is one of the founders of the National Museum, and a statute of him can be found outside the University of Oslo.

  • Andreas Munch 1810-1884

    Andreas was the first person in Norway to be given a state income as a poet, and he supported his mother and unmarried sisters. He was the trend-setting poet of the National Romantic era from 1845 to 1860. He produced a great number of poems and plays as well as some novels.

  • Christian Munch 1817-1889

    Edvard Munch's father. He was a doctor who practised as a military doctor in Løten, Gardermoen and Hønefoss. He was interested in history and was very religious and an excellent story-teller for his children. His profession meant that the family moved a lot, such as to the east side of Christiania, where he helped the poor. They were treated in the flat, and Edvard Munch used the back of the prescriptions as drawing paper.

  • Johan Storm Munch 1827-1908

    Emigrant pastor who founded congregations among Norwegians in Wisconsin, USA. Ship chaplain at the opening of the Suez canal in 1868. Founded and spoke in the Norwegian Free Church in Christiania, and published his sermons. Nicknamed "the poet".

  • The painters Jacob Munch (1776-1839) and Fritz Thaulow (1847-1906) are also related to Edvard Munch. Jacob Munch was the foremost painter in the Empire Style in Norway. His main work is the crowning of Carl Johan in 1818; the painting hangs in the Royal Palace in Oslo. Fritz Thaulow was the first winter painter in Norway: he stood outside in the cold and painted. He organised an educational grant for Edvard Munch to go to Paris in 1889, which came to greatly influence Munch's artistic development.

Listen to Great-grandmother’s portrait

The lyrics is only in Norwegian, but enjoy the atmosphere and the music.

Welcome to Christine’s herb garden

The cultivated garden at the Vågå parsonage is an oasis, a recreational area in which you can walk in the footsteps of Edvard Munch’s ancestors and experience the aesthetically beautiful and calm ambience in the garden, which was created over several generations. See more about the garden and how it was recreated on munchivaga.blogspot.no

Jo Visdal, a friend of Vågå

A talented Vågå man whose breakthrough came with a bust of Munch

Jo Visdal was a close friend of Edvard Munch from adolescence and for the rest of their lives. They met when they were both studying at the Royal College of Drawing ("Den Kongelige Tegneskolen"). Jo Visdal created a bust of Edvard Munch that you can see in the garden at Ullinsvin. The bust shows Edvard Munch as a young man. This is the only bust made of Edvard Munch while he was alive.

The bust Jo Visdal created of Edvard Munch in 1886. This is the only bust that was created of Edvard Munch while he himself was alive. The bust was given new life when it was shown in the parsonage garden at Ullinsvin in 2013.

From Norherad to Paris

Jo Visdal was born in Vågå on 2 November 1861 and died in Asker on 26 December 1923. He grew up at Nigard Visdal in Norherad in Vågå together with four siblings. He got his start as an artist as a wood carver in his home village. In 1880 he came to Kristiania and started training as a cabinet maker. After some time he started supporting himself by carving wood figures which he sold through Bennet’s travel agency.

From 1883 to 1887 he attended the Royal College of Drawing. He debuted in the Høstutstillingen national art exhibition already in his first year, showing a portrait bust. He met Edvard Munch at the college, and they agreed that Jo was to create a portrait bust using Edvard as a model. In 1886, when Munch was only 23 years old, Visdal created a bust of his friend. The work was so well executed that Jo Visdal was given a grant from Houen’s endowment and was able to travel to Paris to continue his studies. The bust got some attention and can be called a small artistic breakthrough.

Multifaceted portraitist

In 1993, Oscar Thue, previously a senior conservator-restorer at the National Gallery, said in conversation with Øystein Hovdkinn that the bust of Munch is «one of the finest, most expressive and vibrant character portraits in Norwegian visual arts». This is the bust that can now be seen in the garden of the parsonage. It was lent by Jo Visdal’s grandchild, Linda Visdal Berglund, and cast in bronze. Oscar Thue believes that the portrait of Munch has a more lyrical expression than Visdal’s later work.

Edvard Munch and Jo Visdal were not the only artists travelling to Paris. The French capital attracted artists from across Europe, and both Edvard Munch and Jo Visdal travelled there while funded by grants. While in Paris, the friends lived in the same bedsit for a time.
In Paris, Visdal drew together with the painters Leon Bonnat and Alfred Roll. The skilled craftsmanship of the French artists became a source of inspiration for Jo Visdal’s later work, though the emotional and often dramatic expressions in French culture at the time were far removed from Jo Visdal’s temperament.

Large production

He was frequently used as a sculptor, and some of his most well-known sculptures are:

  • Bust of Knud Knudsen, National Theatre
  • Bust of Karoline and Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson, Aulestad
  • Bust of Henrik Ibsen, Skien
  • Altarpiece Fagerborg church, Oslo
  • Bust of Arne Garborg, University of Oslo Library
  • Portrait relief, King Haakon 7 for new coins 1907, 1909, 1910 and 1920
  • Nicolai Wergeland, University Aula
  • Monument Carsten Anker, the Eidsvoll Building

Listen to Great-grandmother’s portrait

The lyrics is only in Norwegian, but enjoy the atmosphere and the music.

Welcome to JUTULHEIMEN BYGDEMUSEUM

Here you can see houses from Vågå from 17- and 1800-century, with permanent exhibitions on Jo Gjende and Jo Visdal. Variegation exhibitions, theme nights and events throughout the year. For opening hours and program, see home pages and facebook for Gudbrandsdalsmusea. WWW.GUDBRANDSDALSMUSEA.NO

Munch walk in Vågå

Walk in the footsteps of Edvard Munch and his father's family

Edvard Munch is Norway’s best-known artist and a world-class painter. He was both recognised and controversial in his lifetime, and many people viewed him as shy, selfish and focused on himself and his own art.

While walking in Munch’s footsteps in Vågå, you will discover that he had other sides too. Edvard Munch was interested in how the genes we inherit shape us. Munch’s father’s family was from Vågå, and as a young man Munch travelled here to seek out his roots. He maintained a close relationship to Vågå throughout his life, visiting several times and thinking of Vågå often.

The Munch walk starts just outside of Lie-hjørna. It then turns towards Vågå church, across the cemetery and to Ullinsvin, ending at Jutulheimen. The total distance is 1.32 km, with an elevation of 97 metres. The walk is well marked and you can find your way by following these signs.

At each of the three stops along the Munch walk, you can listen to an episode of the new audio play «Great-grandmother’s portrait», in which you get to know Edvard Munch while he wanders around in Vågå. Stand under the sound shower, press the button and get to know Edvard Munch. The lyrics is only in Norwegian, but enjoy the atmosphere and the music.