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Summer Day or Embrace on the Beach

Painting, 1904, 90.5×194.9 cm

Description of the artwork «Summer Day or Embrace on the Beach»

Bright and memorable canvas "Summer Day, or Hugs on the Beach" from the series "Frize Linde" personifies the constant exploration of the human psyche, which was carried out by Munch. He used bold colors and distinctive styling, following Van gogh and Gauguin turning landscape painting into a means of expressing the inner state. His works, covering the entire spectrum of human emotions - from love and life to fear, anxiety and death - have had an immeasurable influence not only on contemporaries, but also on major masters up to the present day.

Summer Day was conceived as part of the decoration at the home of Dr. Max Linde, the patron saint of Munch, and as a continuation of the famous Frieze of Life. This cycle, which the artist considered one of his most important works, he described as follows: “A series of decorative images that as a whole should give a picture of life. A wavy coastline winds through it, which separates the constantly moving sea. Life in all its diversity is played out under the crown of trees, with its joys and sorrows ".

Munch met Linde in 1902, and later the doctor became one of the artist's main supporters in Germany. He asked the Norwegian to create a series of paintings to decorate the nursery in his home in Lübeck. Linde defined the topic "In accordance with the nature of the child, in other words, without kissing or couples in love [...] it is best to choose something with a landscape"... In Summer Day, Munch depicted boats sailing on the sunny waters along the shore where the girls were gathered. This holiday of youth and happiness is associated with "Dance of Life", which became the culmination of the motives of Love in the "Frieze of Life". The foreground couple hugging appeared later.

The idyll in Munch's view did not satisfy the customer. Linde briefly hung the works in the house, but later returned them. The artist's biographer Arne Eggum believes that the doctor considered a bright, almost aggressive youth in Munch's interpretation "Implying the awakening of sexuality, too erotic and inappropriate for a child's room".

Later, Summer Day, along with other works from Frize Linde, was exhibited at the Leonard Boldt Gallery in Berlin. By about 1911, Munch changed the composition, adding a couple on the left and a few more small details. These additions have completely transformed the canvas. The hugging figures created a new emotional tension in the composition and connected this fragment more closely with the motives of other works of the cycle. The sense of anxiety emanating from these characters suggests that Munch added them in the years leading up to his nervous breakdown (in 1908, he was admitted to a psychiatric clinic). Then his paintings were characterized by a clearly felt psychological intensity.

Two, holding each other in their arms, is not only the constant motive of "Freeze of Life". Their presence also introduces other key themes - death, anxiety, and jealousy. Munch described the kiss as a "sacred moment" when lovers "A desire overcomes something that is stronger than anything else [...] the moment when a person gives all of himself"... The artist's works show his own duality in relation to love: it is beautiful and holy, but at the same time it requires the destruction of the "I".

The man in "Summer Day" completely surrenders to the hugs, but the woman is already breaking out of them. She gazes at the viewer with exaggeratedly large eyes. Recalling his first (and ultimately unhappy) love for Millie Thaulov, Munch wrote: “I learned the power of the eyes, which grow to the size of a globe, approaching me, and emit invisible threads that penetrate my blood, into my heart”... It is possible that he deliberately made a reference to Millie in this work. The woman's face expresses extreme concern, which echoes the feelings of the artist himself after the end of their romance. The use of expression - and especially tense and ghostly facial features - as a means of conveying inner turmoil was a key element of Munch's work, embodied in the iconic Scream. In Summer Day, it is the woman's face that transforms the landscape into something more complex and humane.

The painting was bought from the artist by his close friend, patron and biographer, Dr. Kurt Gleiser. In 1931 he sold it to the National Gallery in Berlin. Six years later, the National Socialist regime in Germany coined the term "degenerate art", which also included this landscape. It was acquired by Hermann Goering in order to re-sell and buy works more suited to his taste. The new owner was Harald Horst Halvorsen, who was then trying to save Munch's "degenerate" works from German museums. In 1939 he put Summer Day up for auction, which was won by Thomas Olsen. This man was a friend and neighbor of Munch in Norway. He was instrumental in the search for many of the artist's works that were abandoned in Germany and created one of the most important private collections of his works.

Vlad Maslov
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About the artwork

Art form: Painting

Subject and objects: Landscape

Style of art: Expressionism

Technique: Oil

Materials: Canvas

Date of creation: 1904

Size: 90.5×194.9 cm

Artwork in selections: 1 selection