Friday, August 28, 2009

Norwegian Good

Like most of you, I suspect, I have my favorite—usually slightly dopey--summer songs (“Heavy Metal Drummer”) and summer novels (Mysteries of Pittsburgh), but I've never really thought in terms of summer paintings. If I had to, I’d probably look around for work that is somehow lightweight and pop, to go along with my fizzy choices for music and prose. The visual art equivalent of a beach read. But Jason Wilson, wrirting in The Smart Set, makes an unlikely nomination: the melancholic Norwegian Edvard Munch, most famous for “The Scream.” Wilson is a fan of Munch’s “The Voice (Summer Night),” which you can check out in the slideshow that accompanies his essay. Wilson says the painting “depicts a woman, with her hair let down, standing in a secret lover’s spot near the shoreline on one of those endless Scandinavian midsummer nights.” He writes:

The thing about Munch is that, no matter how dream-like or metaphorical or obvious or depressing he becomes, the landscapes he paints are somehow always right. He catches the seductive-yet-ominous mood of those midsummer nights. He knew better than anyone that the flip side of the glorious midnight sun is the long, dark, melancholy winter to come. That even within the moment of great happiness, it’s already swiftly moving into the past tense.

That’s a little heavy for summer, and maybe a little too good, like a really fine Bordeaux on a 90-degree day. But then, Wilson makes a good case for Munch, and I wouldn’t say no to the Bordeaux, either.


  1. On NPR's short list of five best classical music recordings for summer two of the inclusions have Scandinavian connections -- the one a Finnish conductor (Esa-Pekka Salonen) and the other Swedish repertoire. Has Scandinavia got a monopoly on the season all of a sudden? Is this a bid for world domination?

  2. Green-Eyed SirenAugust 28, 2009

    I have fond memories of a trip to Norway in the summer, Munch included. Perhaps you need to be in a place where the light shimmers ethereally at 11 pm in order for Munch to feel summer-appropriate.

  3. When your summers are short, I suspect they become very important to societal sanity. We don't know anything about that in Chicagoland, do we?