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Munch paintings bring a total of $30 million

One work, ‘Summer Day’ sold to an anonymous bidder for $10.84 million
/ Source: The Associated Press

Paintings by Norwegian expressionist Edvard Munch fetched $30 million when they were sold at auction in London Tuesday.

His lyrical 1904 work “Summer Day” was sold to an anonymous bidder for $10.84 million, almost double the expected price.

The nine works, which included two searing self-portraits, were sold by Norwegian shipping magnate Fred Olsen, whose family has owned them since the 1920s.

Auction house Sotheby’s described the paintings as “the greatest collection of works by Edvard Munch ever to appear for sale on the international market.”

Auctioneers said the sale of “Summer Day” was the most significant offer of Munch’s work since “Girls on a Bridge” was bought for $7.7 million — a record for the artist — in 1996.

The painting “Self-Portrait in Front of Two-Colored Background” sold for $6.3 million, while “Self-Portrait Recovering from Spanish Flu,” painted during the deadly global flu pandemic of 1918, raised $2.97 million.

Olsen, 77, whose father hid his collection from the Nazis during Germany’s World War II occupation of Norway, said deciding to sell had been difficult.

“I grew up with Munch on the walls and have looked at these pictures since I was a little boy. I know them by heart,” said Olsen, whose father, Thomas, was Munch’s patron and the subject of two portraits by the artist.

“Over time it has become more difficult to have them on the walls. It is a matter of security and tax.”

An isolated figure for much of his life, Munch (1863-1944) is now considered one of the greatest 20th century painters, renowned for a bold use of color and an unrelenting focus on inner turmoil. His best-known painting is “The Scream,” a depiction of an anguished figure on a bridge that has become an icon of angst, reproduced on posters, T-shirts and even coffee mugs.

Five people are due to go on trial in Norway this month for stealing one of four versions of “The Scream” during a daylight raid on Oslo’s Munch Museum in 2004.

Masked gunmen took the painting along with another Munch work, “Madonna.” Neither has been recovered.