Munch Museum and Hotel Continental – Oslo, Norway
At Home Amid a Wealth of Tradition and Quality
Edvard Munch (1863-1944) remains hugely popular today, the only Nordic painter whose influence is recognized on a global level. That he was not terribly successful during his lifetime (he was posthumously hailed as the father of Expressionism) is evident from the fact that he was able to hold on to much of his work: more than 22,000 pieces in his possession were bequeathed to the city of Oslo in 1940 shortly before his death.
As if these weren’t enough, the collection has been augmented over time by gifts from individuals, filling the Munch Museum, opened in 1963, to the rafters. It now includes paintings, drawings, watercolors, prints, sculptures, and personal possessions such as books and letters, an edited portion of which is exhibited and rotated regularly.
Munch lost his mother at age five, and was often ill as a child. His lifelong struggle with malaise and mental torment colors much of his work, which ranges from realism to latter-day Expressionism. His most famous work, The Scream, was stolen from the museum in August 2004. Fortunately, Night (like The Scream, painted during the same prolific period in the 1890s when he had achieved a certain renown) is still here.
Despite the massive number of works on display, representing the artist at every age and under the sway of a variety of aesthetic impulses, there is a constant current of melancholy and loneliness.
Hotel Continental, the capital’s finest accomodations, is privately owned and faultlessly operated by four generations of the Brochmann family, who built it in 1900. It features Norway’s largest collection of Munch graphics – the family’s own – used to decorate the public areas.
Right across the street from the National Theater (and excellently situated in the privileged shadow of the Royal Palace), it has long enjoyed a bond with the theater, hosting performers and playgoers as hotel guests or at its famous Theatercafeen. The most authentically re-created Viennese café in northern Europe, the Theatercafeen has been legendary since the day it opened.
Lively and always full, it is eclipsed only by its more formal sister establishment, the much touted Annen Etage, an elegant venue for some of the city’s most refined dining. It’s a whole other scene in the hotel’s trendy Lipp Bar and Restaurant, popular with a handsome crowd since its birth in the early 1990s.