Edvard Munch bought the Nedre Ramme estate from the daughters of German Vice-Consul Hjalmar Juell in November 1910.
The property is idyllically situated on a promontory in a bay by the Oslo fjord. Here Edvard Munch lived sheltered in a beautiful environment, surrounded by the fjord, lush forest, garden, animals, and his helpers—within easy reach of the capital.
The property gave Munch a garden, shoreline, a traditional clinker-built boat, servants hall, coal shed, and a French chateau style main house.
At Nedre Ramme, Munch lived a healthier life, seeking proximity to nature, animals, the sun, and the sea. Here he lived ensconced in the natural world and at one with nature. From his previous residence he carried with him his renewed interest in the Norwegian landscape.
Here he emphasized the natural surroundings and created works of art in a vitalist style: His motifs became luscious, imbuing nature and people with vitality and colour.
An artist depends on his model or models and Edvard Munch’s models were often friends or employees at one of his properties.
Ingeborg Kaurin (1894–1972) was a trained housekeeper and cook. Kaurin became not only the artist’s housekeeper, but also his most popular model in the period 1911–1915. Munch painted her in scenes from their daily lives and while she worked, in addition to more intimate scenes and nudes.
Solveig Kaurin vacationed with her sister and Munch at Nedre Ramme. She got to study his art and model for several artworks. Solveig’s mother also became a model and sat for the mother figure in the Alma Mater.
In conjunction with the centenary celebration of the University of Oslo in 1911, an aula was commissioned in classical style connected to the already existing building in Karl Johans gate. The auditorium was to be decorated with contemporary art and a competition to this effect was initiated with popular and renowned artists in 1909.
At Ramme, Munch sourced the concept design for one of three central motifs of the Aula’s eleven paintings: The Researchers/Alma Mater. Furthermore, the motif for Harvesting Women is also from Nedre Ramme. When it became clear that no one had won the competition and that the Aula was to be inaugurated with yellow silk wallpaper covering the walls, Munch continued his work on the decorations.
In the open-air studio at Nedre Ramme he made small-scale versions of the eleven motifs.
The small-scale Aula decorations were exhibited both at home and abroad, where they received publicity and aroused interest. This became an important contributing factor that has resulted in his Aula decorations (in large format) adorning the University Aula today.
Karen Borgen—Ingeborg and Solveig Kaurin’s mother—modelled for the mother figure in The Researchers/Alma Mater. The work Neutralia bears striking similarities to Harvesting Women in the Aula, and depicts Ingeborg Kaurin sitting under a tree, while her sister Solveig picks apples. Nedre Ramme remained in Edvard Munch’s possession until his death in 1944.
Overnight stay at Villa Munch?