Workers on their Way Home by Edvard Munch at the National Gallery of Denmark in Copenhagen

In this episode, we’ll be taking a closer look at Workers on their Way Home by Edvard Munch, 1914, at the National Gallery of Denmark in Copenhagen. Welcome to Art, Culture & Books with me, Anthony King.

As always, I take all the photos and videos myself on location, ensuring you get an up-close and personal view of the fascinating world of art and culture. I’ll be popping in and out with commentary as this video progresses but for now let’s take a close up look.

This oil on canvas has since been sent to the new Munch Museum in Oslo, from Copenhagen where I viewed it. It was originally created between 1913 and 1914 and this piece reflects Munch’s conviction that the working class would be the driving force in the future society.

In the early 20th century, Edvard Munch devoted his artistic attention to the theme of labourers returning home, a subject that captivated him during the 1910s and 1920s. The worn-out industrial workers, fatigued from their endeavours, flow outward from the factory, symbolizing the ushering in of a new era. Munch, primarily associated with Nordic Expressionism, an art form emphasizing emotional experience, private symbols, and an experimental, subjective style, surprised many in 1929 by declaring, “Now is the time of the workers.” This proclamation showcased his engagement with the social realities of his time, transcending the conventional boundaries of his artistic reputation.

Edvard Munch, renowned for his angst-laden depictions of love, anxiety, melancholia, and death, took an unconventional approach with Workers Returning Home, infusing it with a political message through artistic expression. The painting portrays workers triumphantly making their way home after a demanding day, with vibrant colours emanating from behind them.

Munch’s inspiration for this painting stems from his solidarity with the working class, viewing them as a beacon of hope and resilience during times of societal transformation. Workers Returning Home is not just a visual representation but symbolic art, illustrating how essential members of society draw strength from one another to overcome challenges presented by oppressive systems, such as capitalism. This artistic endeavour underscores Munch’s lasting impact, not only as an Expressionist but as a keen observer and participant in the social layers of his era.