In his autobiographical notes, Anders Zorn writes about how the idea for the painting was born:
"This work was painted in June and part of July after sunset and I am pleased to have done it. I had just given Morkarlby a new maypole. It was painted red every Midsummer and I realised and still realise that it is my solemn duty to be present and to lead the dressing of said pole. My farmhand, dear Verner, was in charge of raising the maypole on the stroke of midnight on Midsummer night. Once it was up, a reel was played and people danced hand-in-hand around the maypole and the yards in an endless snake of youngsters. Then there was dancing in one of the yards until sunrise. This is what my painting portrays."
Zorn does not put the maypole at the centre of his Midsummer Dance. His message is all about the experience of the dance, the scents of a summer night and the light. He completed this painting in 1897.
Nationalmuseum received the work Midsummer Dance as a gift from the Royal Swedish Academy of Fine Arts in 1903. There is a replica in a rather smaller format (117.5 x 90) in private ownership, commissioned by an American collector in 1903.