Munch byste

Edvard Munch’s connection with Vågå

Edvard Munch's family on his father’s side lived in Vågå for generations, and in his time he had close relatives still living there.

Paternal ancestors in Vågå

Edvard Munch’s ancestors in Vågå were mostly government officials and clergymen. His great-great-grandfather, Johan Storm (1712-76), was the first of the family to set up home at Ullinsvin rectory, and worked as a pastor in the village for 31 years. He was succeeded by Munch's great-grandparents, Christine Storm Munch and Peder Munch, who stayed in the village and served the church for 10 years (1776-86).

In Munch’s childhood home there was a portrait of his great-grandparents, and with a father who was a great storyteller we can imagine that Vågå was a name often mentioned.

Edvard Munch was aware of the legacy left to him by his ancestors. In a note from 1933-34, he wrote:

In my family there were many painters and poets – my great-grandmother [….] Was the sister of edvard storm, the first to use local dialect in his Work.

Munch took an interest in how the genes we inherit shape who we are. During the period 1895 to 1939, Edvard Munch visited Vågå on several occasions. This is documented in letters, notes, sketchbooks, and visitors' books. In 1895, at age 32, he walked from Lillehammer through Gausdal, across the Fronsfjella mountains, and then through Sikkilsdalen down to Vågå. He passed through Gjende, where his father’s cousin ran a small mountain lodge known as “Petterbessa”. This is where Munch drew inspiration for Peer Daydreams (1930), a drawing he made for Ibsen’s play “Peer Gynt”. On one of his trips to Vågå he wrote: “I must go to the mountains to restore my strength”.

Munch took a great interest in Vågå church (built in 1130), and was very conscious of his family ties with the Vågå poet Edvard Storm.

In 1924, Munch wrote to Jens Thiis:

“I have now travelled for several months. I must have peace, and it is certainly not easy to find in this country. I must travel from place to place so that no one knows where I am, to find peace. I am in Vågå, do YOU know that this is where my family is from?” and “In the churchyard I discovered two grave sites, both a Munch and a Bjølstad.” This is strange. It is the battle between these two families that in me become paintings.”

In Edvard Munch's family on his father’s side, the men all held positions of power and authority. Of the women, the one who stood out and has been given particular recognition is his great-grandmother, Christine Storm Munch.

This is Edvard Munch's family tree: