The Scientists /Alma Mater is one of the monumental paintings that Edvard Munch painted for one of the long walls in the Festival Hall of Oslo University. He painted two different versions of the motif, but couldn’t quite make up his mind as to which was better – which is why both versions were displayed in the Hall during Munch’s lifetime.
Today The Scientists /Alma Mater is exhibited here in the Concert Hall of the Munch Museum, whilst the other version, known simply as Alma Mater, hangs in the University’s Festival Hall. Both pictures are 11 metres long and 4.80 metres high.
The motif is painted in Hvitsten by the Oslo Fjord, where the landscape is open and green. In the summer sun a young mother of generous proportions sits on the beach with her baby child at her breast. The older children around her are rummaging about in anything they can find on the beach - flowers, stones, shells and crabs.
Munch wanted the pictures to give an impression of the eternal powers of life. The mother in the centre of the picture represents the eternal forces, whilst the children around her represent the inquisitive and playful nature of childhood – the seed of all research and play. The title, Alma Mater, is the Latin for “bounteous mother”, and is widely used for universities.
The Sun, Alma Mater and History, all of which are in the Festival Hall of the University, are regarded as major works in Norwegian monumental art.