Edvard Munch and Warnemünde

I was amused to find that Edvard Munch had been in Warnemünde between 1906 and 1908; Munch whose paintings I have often referred to to explain my distaste for the dark and dismal Nordic winter. And now he pops up in Warnemünde, my winter refuge. The house where he lived beside the Alten Ström is not a museum but a cultural centre tended by the Norwegians and the Germans with a library, artist exchanges and a small exhibition of Munch’s photographs. There is a fine restored gallery where the artist used to sit and peer out, seeing but not being seen, on the seaward side of what was once the cottage of fisher folk.

Initially, Warnemünde suited him well, calming his nervous disposition leading him to compare it with his youthful days in Norway, although that must have been his very youthful days before a series of misfortunes led to the deaths of his mother and some siblings, Munch talked of his healthy diet and being reborn. I agree with him, it is a relaxing and beneficial place although I shall go easy on the fish diet.

Munch was very productive here but after a couple of years, the picture darkened. Warnemünde was developing as a tourist location and the crowds of seaseekers displeased him. But there also seemed to have been a clash between Munch and the locals as he describes Warnemünde as a terribly bourgeois place. I’m not sure whether it was his lifestyle, his work or a mixture of both but I noticed that one of his most famous nude photographs of Rosa Meissner was taken at a hotel and not his atelier, which was presumably more easily penetrated by the watchful prude. His travails, however, were not just the work of the world; he suffered from feelings of persecution both by the living and (if I have understood the German correctly) the dead.

He did, however, live to the age of 80, although his last years must have been darkened by the applause of Europe being silenced by the Nazis who confiscated 82 of his works as degenerate art. By then he was back in Norway although the Nazis came soon after and he did not live to celebrate their departure.

For the time being, I am glad to think of him on my daily circular walk around Alten Ström. I shall continue to develop warm feelings for Warnemünde, hopefully without a whiff of scandal.

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