Art, culture and history in a timeless journey through the streets of the Norwegian capital
There is a hill just above Oslo. In order to reach it, you have to take a road uphill. On the exposed side, the trail has a fence. This is one of art’s most famous places, that of Munch’s “The Scream” – a masterpiece that brings together vivid colours, schizoid brushstrokes, and the spirit of an era, that of the late 19th century, in which nihilism decreed victory over romanticism. This was especially the case in Norway – a land of realists, cynics and pessimists. Edvard Munch’s masterpiece stems from an autobiographical experience: a vision, perhaps due to a panic attack, as he crossed that little road, often mistaken for a bridge, in the midst of an idyllic nature. However, this nature, in the eyes of the artist took on hallucinatory and deadly premonitions, and appeared scattered, using the words of the same painter, by “tongues of fire”.
The Scream quickly became what many works of art aspire to be: the expression of the human condition, as Munch’s contemporaries conceived it. Moreover, perhaps for this reason, it also assumed a “pop” dimension, widely imitated and cited by other artists. This success led the piece to end up in the crosshairs of the thieves twice: the 1910 version was stolen in 1994 and again in 2004, but fortunately it was found both times.
The Scream could only but fascinate an artist like Andy Warhol: the father of pop-art, famous for the lithographs that reproduced Campbell soup cans, and the multicoloured Marylin Monroe, dedicated fifteen variations on theme to the work of Munch, all defined by that psychedelic style which was his trademark. Until the end of August, they will be visible at the Kunsthall, an art space not far from the National Gallery that is home to most of Munch’s paintings. Not only will there be these remakes, but also other lithographs inspired by twentieth-century art. A good starting point to approach the rest of the works of the Scandinavian artist is a mandatory stop at the Munch Museum in Tøyen, in the north-eastern outskirts of Oslo, quite close to the botanical gardens and the museum of natural history.
However, the capital of Norway has a lot to offer in addition to traditional museums. History enthusiasts, or simply Viking-lovers, shouldn’t not miss out on the Vikingskiphuset, an authentic drakkar. These are not combat ships, but rather funeral monuments, in some cases even more spectacular. Made of oak and literally “filled” with their loot, they are a unique testimony, surviving thanks to the practice of burial after the funeral ritual, in the belief that they could transport the deceased to the afterlife. The largest, nicknamed Osenberg, required as many as thirty oarsmen, and is finely decorated with motifs of dragons and snakes.
If you want to learn more about Norwegian folklore, you can go to Bygdøy, the peninsula that forms the western part of the city – this is where a true temple of the local tradition rises, with numerous wooden buildings from all over the country, disassembled and rebuilt there, with a look towards the Middle Ages.
Oslo also means nature. In one of the greenest cities in Europe, it is the first city to have already planned to ban all cars in a few years, so you can always find the opportunity for a quick escape to the park. The best known is Vigeland, where there are over two hundred sculptures. There is also one of Scandinavia’s most famous amusement parks: the Tusenfryd, in the woods about twenty kilometres from the city centre.