Painting the Town Munch: Oslo

Norwegian painter Edvard Munch perfected the art of darkness and foreboding. Belying those moody themes is a colorful palette that perks up Oslo’s winter gray.

As the high-latitude capital celebrates the artist’s 150th birthday, Munch’s imprint on his adopted city is ubiquitous, in official venues and on the streets he depicted.

At the National Gallery, the Munch room mounts such masterworks as the most recognized version of “The Scream.” Eastern Oslo’s Munch Museum elevates childhood sketches alongside refined pieces, pulled from the site’s 28,000 lithographs, paintings, and drawings bequeathed by the artist to the city upon his 1944 death.

More Munch sites: the bohemian quarter of Grünerløkka, where he lived; Oslo’s main drag of Karl Johans Gate and its Grand Cafe, where legend has it he bartered for chateaubriand steak with art; and Ekeberg hill, where art lovers recognize the fjordscape that appears under the flaming skies of “The Scream.”

From here the harbor view takes in Bjørvika’s burgeoning waterfront, site of Oslo’s Opera House (a design marvel that allows patrons to walk up its sloped roof) as well as the future home of an expanded Munch museum.

Tip: Warm up under Munch’s “Sun” at the University of Oslo Assembly Hall, former host of the Nobel Peace Prize awards.

This piece, written by Arild Molstad, appeared in the December 2013/January 2014 issue of National Geographic Traveler magazine.