Munch Painting to Come to Auction Following Settlement Between Heirs of Two Collecting Families

A large-scale painting by Edvard Munch will be sold at a Sotheby’s auction, following a legal settlement between heirs of its original owner, a Jewish art historian who fled persecution during World War II and was forced to sell his collection, and a Norwegian collector who purchased it soon after.

The painting, titled Dance on the Beach (1906), will be offered as part of an evening sale at Sotheby’s London on March 1, where is expected to fetch a price between $15 million and $25 million.

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Proceeds from the sale of the work will be divided between relatives of Curt Glaser, a German Jewish art critic and collector who was forced to sell works he owned in Berlin in 1933, before fleeing Nazi persecution. Several months after Glaser parted with the Munch painting, Norwegian shipping magnate Thomas Olsen purchased the work along with others by the artists at a public sale in Oslo. Olsen was a known patron of Munch, having owned a collection of more than 30 of his works; he was also an acquaintance of Glaser’s.

Spanning 13 feet in length, Dance on the Beach features a group of figures rendered in Munch’s ghoulish style convening together on a bucolic shoreline. Appearing in the foreground are images of Munch’s former partners, Tulla Larsen and Millie Thaulow. Part of a 12-panel frieze commissioned by German film director Max Reinhardt for his Berlin theatre, Dance of the Beach was produced to fit within the theatre’s rounded interior, surrounding its upper-level audiences.

Glaser, who served as the director of the Berlin State Art Library and was a biographer of Munch, bought the painting in 1912 when the theatre was renovated, and the commissioned frieze was de-installed. Glaser was removed from his position in 1933 by the Nazi regime. After selling his collection under duress, he fled to Switzerland and then the United States, where he died a decade later in 1943.

In a statement, Lucian Simmons, Sotheby’s global head of restitution, said that the painting’s history is “intertwined” with the lives of two of Munch’s top patrons—the wives of whom each were subjects in the artist’s paintings. The sale is timed to coincide with an exhibition opening next month at the Kunstmuseum in Basel that is dedicated to reassembling Glaser’s collection.

Dance on the Beach is not the first Munch work once owned by Olsen to be sold at auction recently. In 2021, Sotheby’s sold another frieze from the commission, titled Embrace on the Beach, and a self-portrait by the artist for a collective £20.5 million ($25 million with fees), also in London. Olsen had housed all three works together in a remote Norwegian property for safe-keeping, following the outbreak of World War II in 1939.


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