The Aula Decorations

A new festival hall was to be built for the University of Oslo’s centennial celebration in 1911, and in 1909 a competition for the artistic decoration of the hall was announced. After many discussions and intrigues within the building committee and the jury, only Edvard Munch and the painter Emanuel Vigeland were accepted for further participation in the competition. The deadline for submitting the drafts was set for 1 August 1911. Munch had worked intensely on full-scale drafts for “History” and “The Sun” in his outdoor studio in Kragerø. Neither Munch's nor Vigeland’s works were accepted, however, and as a consequence the festival hall was decorated with yellow silk wallpaper during the University’s anniversary celebration in September 1911. With gallows humour Munch called the decision “a victorious defeat” and immediately began, despite the rejection, to paint a new and final version of “The Sun” in a monumental format. Exhibitions of the drafts of the decorations created a great stir in Germany in 1913, which most likely led to turning public opinion around in Norway, and to the fact that the University Governance reconsidered their decision and voted to acquire the decorations. Edvard Munch continued to work on certain motifs, and it wasn’t until late summer 1916, while an intense heat wave swept over Kristiania, that he could finally hang the pictures in the University’s festival hall (Aula), a total of 11 paintings: “Chemistry”, “History”, “New Rays”, “Women Turned Towards the Sun”, “Awakening Men in Lightstream”, “The Sun”, “Genii in Sun Rays”, “Men Turned Towards the Sun”, “Harvesting Women”, “Alma Mater”, “The Source”.