A monumental canvas painted by Edvard Munch more than four meters long will be auctioned at Sotheby’s in London from the Olsen Collection. An extraordinary work, with a daring story.
Dance on the Beach of 1906 will be in the London Modern & Contemporary Evening Sale on March 1, with a pre-auction estimate of $15-25 million. Before the sale, the work will be on view for the first time since 1979 in London – from 22 February to 1 March – and in digital projects in Hong Kong and New York.
In 1906 the director and producer Max Reinhardt, protagonist of the German theatrical and cinematic avant-garde of the early twentieth century, commissioned Edvard Munch to Reinhardt friezean immersive series of twelve large canvases for his Berlin theater.
The work proposed for sale at Sotheby’s is the only one of this series available on the art market, while the others are all found in German museum collections, including nine in the Nationalgalerie in Berlin, one in the Hamburger Kunsthalle and one in the Museum Folkwang of Essen. The painting depicts in the foreground two great loves of the Norwegian master, Tulla Larsen and Millie Thaulow.
Glaser, director of the Berlin State Art Library and biographer of the Norwegian artist, bought the work in 1912, when Reinhardt’s theater was refurbished and the frieze was divided. The art historian and curator was later persecuted by the Nazis because of his Jewish origins and forced to sell the work in 1933, when he fled Germany. Several months later, the painting reappeared on the market at an auction in Oslo in 1934 and was bought by Olsen, who had been a neighbor of Munch’s. Dance on the Beach it had appeared in the first class saloon of one of Olsen’s cruise liners en route between Oslo and Newcastle in 1939. Olsen hid it when Britain declared war on Germany and brought all of his Munch paintings, including the very famous “L ‘scream’, in a barn in the Norwegian forest.
Since Dance on the Beach it has always remained in the hands of the Olsen family. “This exceptional painting is made all the more special by its extraordinary provenance, a story that has developed since it was painted 115 years ago,” said Lucian Simmons, vice president of Sotheby’s. “We are proud to participate in the next chapter of the painting.”