The Scream and other Eduard Munch paintings are the highlights of a visit to the Nasjonalgalleriet (Norwegian National Gallery) art museum in Oslo, Norway.
The Nasjonalgalleriet (Norwegian National Gallery) in Oslo is most famous for its copy of Edvard Munch’s painting The Scream that is the undisputed highlight of the around 300 works that are on permanent display in this art museum. Although Munch and other Norwegian artists from the late 19th and early 20th centuries are the main attractions, the museum covers European art from antiquities to the 1950s in finely curated exhibitions of only around 25 rooms. The museum is easy to enjoy even for visitors with limited time. Admission is free on Thursday.
The Nasjonalgalleriet (Norwegian National Gallery)
Norway’s National Gallery (Nasjonalgalleriet) is the most popular museum in Oslo. However, only around 300 works – mostly paintings – are currently on display making the museum less of a sensory overload on a short visit than is the case with many larger exhibitions.
The main emphasis of the permanent display is Norwegian art of the 19th and early 20th centuries. This covers styles from romanticism to modernism with special emphasis on impressionism and expressionism. However, the museum gives visitors a quick overview of art from antiquity to around 1950.
Permanent Exhibitions in the National Gallery in Oslo
The permanent exhibition in the National Gallery of Norway in Oslo is on the second floor of the museum building and divided into four main groupings (with the color of the walls helping to identify the section):
- From antiquity to baroque (red)
- Romanticism (light blue)
- From impressionism to Munch (dark blue)
- From modernism to the 1950s (yellow)
Visitors interested only in Nordic art could skip the first 11 rooms and start the visit in rooms 13 and 12. Only interested in Munch and The Scream? Turn right at the top of the stairs and head to room 19.
From Antiquity to Baroque in the Nasjonalgalleriet, Oslo
The red rooms of the From Antiquity to the Baroque exhibition in the National Gallery covers 1700 years of European art in only seven rooms so it is well worth starting a visit to this museum at the large “Start Here” sign.
Small rooms here include a couple of Greek heads, Russian icons, Lucas Cranach before ending in a larger hall with more traditional Baroque paintings including works by old masters such as Rubens, Jan Steen, Hendrick Avercamp and Frans Snyders.
Romanticism in the National Gallery of Norway
The Romanticism rooms in the National Gallery include works by various European 19th-century painters but the emphasis is on Norwegian and other Nordic painters.
Norway’s links with Denmark weakened during the 19th century and an own national identity developed that led ultimately to independence from Sweden in 1905. The most celebrated Norwegian painter from his period – Johan Christian Dahl – lived mostly in Saxony although many of his paintings have clear Nordic-inspired themes.
Many works here, and in other sections, have very typical Norwegian scenes – not only landscapes but also traditional events such as weddings, snowy town scenes, as well as very human events such as illness and death.
From Impressionism to Munch
The National Gallery of Norway has works by most of the better-known impressionist artists including works by Monet, Gauguin, Cezanne, and a self-portrait by Van Gogh. However, the main draw in this section is the works by Norway’s most-famous expressionist, Edvard Munch (1863-1944).
The Edvard Munch Room (room 19) is the most popular section of the Nasjonalmuseet. The museum has around 30 of Munch’s works and several are on display in this large hall. The Scream is of course the main attraction but other key works by Munch on display here include a Madonna, Dance of Life, and two self-portraits.
The Scream in the National Gallery of Norway
The Scream (Skrik, 1893) is considered the second most famous painting in the world, after The Mona Lisa, and thus the best-known painting in Oslo, Norway, Scandinavia, and Northern Europe. Although The Scream here is now also protected by bulletproof glass, visitors can get very close to the work. Furthermore, in contrast to the Louvre groups are small and tend to move on fast.
Munch made four versions of The Scream – two others are in the Munch Museum in Oslo – with the one in the National Museum since 1910 the easiest to see. The work has been much discussed with Munch writing in his diary amongst others about it “I was walking along the road with two friends – Then the sun went down – The sky suddenly turned to blood and I felt a great scream in nature.”
Copyright on Munch’s works has expired in Norway – 70 years after the death of the artist – so it is Screams everywhere near souvenir shops.
From Modernism to the 1950s
The National Gallery has only a small selection of its 20th century works on display – most of the newer works are in the Museum of Contemporary Art.
Artists represented in the final couple of rooms include such well-known names as Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, August Macke, and Norwegian artists following the same major early 20th-century genres such as Cubism, Figuration, and Abstraction.
National Gallery of Norway Visitor’s Information
The National Gallery (Nasjonal Museet), Universitetsgata 13, Oslo is just off the Karl Johans Gate – the partly pedestrianized street that connects Oslo’s main station with the royal palace.
The National Gallery is open Tuesday to Friday from 10:00 to 18:00 and weekends from 11:00 to 17:00. Closed on Monday.
Admission is NOK100 and includes admission to the National Gallery, the Museum of Contemporary Art, and the National Museum – Architecture but only if visited on the same day. The Oslo Pass is accepted.
Admission is free for children under 18.
Admission is free for all on Thursdays.
The museum café is in the French Salon, originally designed by Arnstein Arneberg. It is a lovely place for lunch although seats are hard to come by.
See also: Top Sights to See in Oslo for more of the best sites to visit in the Norwegian capital.