Summer Night's Dream (The Voice)

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863–1944)


87.9 x 108 cm (34 5/8 x 42 1/2 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique

Oil on canvas

On View

Sidney and Esther Rabb Gallery (Gallery 255)





Munch was strongly influenced by the work of Vincent van Gogh and Paul Gauguin, in particular by these artists’ use of color and form to express intense personal meaning. In the late 1880s, Munch conceived an epic series of paintings entitled The Frieze of Life, which dealt poetically and symbolically with life, love, and death. Many of his most memorable images were part of this ultimately unfinished project. Summer Night’s Dream, the first work in the cycle of Love, portrays the initial glimmer of adolescent sexual awakening. Bathed in an eerie light, the painting is probably set in the Borre Forest, a traditional place of courtship during Norway’s long midsummer nights.


Lower left: E. Munch 1893


Sold by the artist to Professor Helge Bäckström (b. 1865 - d. 1932) and his wife Rägnhild Bäckström (b. 1871 - d. 1908), Stockholm, Sweden [see note 1]. 1924, with Galerie Commeter, Hamburg [see note 2]. 1926, Paul Cassirer, Berlin [see note 3]. Between about 1927 and 1937, with the Moderne Galerie Thannhauser, Berlin [see note 4]. 1937, acquired by Harald Holst Halvorsen (d. 1960), Oslo, Norway [see note 5]; 1959, sold by Halvorsen to the MFA for $35,000. (Accession Date: May 14, 1959)

[1] In the MFA curatorial file are photographs of the painting hanging in the Bäckströms' home. The couple knew the artist personally; Mrs. Bäckström was the sister of Munch's model, Dagny Juell Przybyszewski, and she herself posed for Munch twice.

[2] According to Gerd Woll, Edvard Munch: Complete Paintings, Catalogue Raisonné (London, 2009), vol. 1, cat. no. 319, the painting was included in an exhibition held October 9-21, 1924, at the Galerie Commeter.

[3] Lent to the exhibition "Edvard Munch: Gemälde und Graphik," Städtische Kunsthalle, Mannheim, November 7, 1926-January 9, 1927, cat. no. 5, as "Mondschein am Fjord." Many thanks to Hannah Krause of the Kunsthalle, Mannheim (correspondence to the MFA, May 18, 2010) for providing information about this exhibition.

[4] According to the exhibition catalogue "Edward Munch" (New York: The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, 1965), cat. no. 19, the painting was with the Galerie Thannhauser, Berlin, before it was owned by Halvorsen, though no dates of ownership are given. The gallery opened its Berlin branch in 1927 and closed it in 1937, so if the painting was at the gallery, it would have been there within that decade.

[5] According to a letter from Mr. Halvorsen to the MFA (April 4, 1959). He does not specify from whom he acquired it.

Credit Line

Ernest Wadsworth Longfellow Fund