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Est: £300,000 GBP - £500,000 GBPSold:
Sotheby'sNovember 23, 2010London, United Kingdom

Item Overview


GERHARD MUNTHE NORWEGIAN 1849 - 1929 IDYLL signed and dated Gerh. Münthe / 1886. lower left oil on canvas 80 by 100cm., 31½ by 39½in.

Artist or Maker


Bergen, Kunstforeningen, Høstutstillingen, 1886
Oslo, Kunstforeningen, Fleskum malerne, 1965, no. 17
Modum, Stiftelsen Modums Blaafarveværk, Gerhard Munthe, 1988, no. 41, illustrated
Frederikstad, Balaclava Gallery, Summer Exhibition, 1994
Budapest, Museum of Fine Arts, Oslo, Royal Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Norvég tájak hangulata / Tunes in a landscape, 2002, no. 22, illustrated in the catalogue


Robert Kloster, Jubileumsskrift, Bergen Kunstforening 100 år, 1938
Hilmar Bakken, Gerhard Munthe, Oslo, 1952, p. 116, discussed, p. 131, illustrated


Bergen, Kunstforeningen
Won by the grandfather of the present owner in a lottery organised by the Kunstforeningen in December 1886


In Idyll, Munthe painted his then 17-year-old fiancée, Sigrun Sandberg, sitting in profile next to Bacchus, her dog, in a Nordic summer landscape. Her pure white dress serves at once a purely aesthetic function, echoing the daisies in the foreground and providing a potent contrast to Munthe's palette of rich greens, but also a deeply symbolic one. It was later in 1886, the year of the work's execution, that Munthe would marry Sigrun, and one may see in her dress a foreshadowing of their betrothal.

Munthe painted the present work while living at Fleskum, an important artists' colony in Bærum, Norway. The colony had been established on an old farm in 1886 by Maggie and Christian Skredsvig, himself an important Norwegian artist, taking their cue from celebrated French examples, particularly that of the Barbizon painters. In 1886, Munthe and the Skredsvigs were joined by the artists Harriet Backer, Kitty Lange Kielland, Eilif Peterssen and Erik Werenskiold at Fleskum. The painting of the so-called Fleskum artists would have an important effect on Norwegian 'mood painting', an attempt to convey with expressive force the distinctive qualities of the Norwegian landscape.

The influence of French painting could already be seen in Munthe's Oktoberaften (fig. 1), which recalled the Barbizon painters, but also Millet and Courbet. Painted later in the 1880s, Idyll again demonstrates the influence of French painting, but this time belongs to the Naturalist current then sweeping through European painting. In composition and tones the work is particularly reminiscent of the doyen of the Naturalist movement, Jules Bastien-Lepage.

A contemporary columnist remarked that the work 'has completely conquered the public in Bergen. This painting attracted the visitors from the very first moment and they went back again and again... It all unites in an emotion so strong and beautiful that it communicates to everyone. The viewers were spellbound. They rejoiced at the sheer poetry Gerhard Munthe had coaxed from the region around Sandviken' (IH in Dagbladet, 12 September 1886)

Fig. 1, Gerhard Munthe, Oktoberaften (An October evening), before 1881, Det Kongelige Slott, Oslo

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