Robat pa sjoen is an expressive and expressionistic landscape by one of the great pioneers of modern art, Edvard Munch, who is currently being celebrated in a number of events marking the 150th anniversary of his birth. Ascribed a date of 1904 based partly on stylistic traits, Robat pa sjoen is an important landscape which perfectly demonstrates Munch's ability to imbue the genre with an emotional and psychological dimension. The boat in the distance, an isolated vessel with a lone figure upon it, is suspended on the calm waters; these form a contrast with the turbulent eddies of paint with which Munch has painted the rocks in the foreground. Due to its composition, Robat pa sjoen appears almost a pendant to his Maneskinn over sjoen of the same year, now in the Munch-Museet, Oslo, which features similar rocks and water; in that work, though, the boat is substituted with the moon and its extended, phallic reflection.
Robat pa sjoen combines a sense of serenity, mystery and solitude. The depiction of the beach, almost certainly that at Asgardstrand, where the artist had a summer house that he had purchased in 1897 and where he painted many of his seascapes, links this picture to a number of other works, not least Melancholy, Yellow Boat, where Munch depicted a thoughtful figure in the foreground while in the background, the man's wife prepares to depart for an island with her lover. In Robat pa sjoen, Munch has imbued the picture with a similar sense of focus on distant events, on the boat sitting on the water; meanwhile, the rocks recall those in Munch's writings: 'the strange stones that mystically rise above the water and take on the shapes of strange creatures that resembled trolls that evening' (Munch, quoted in P.E. Tojner, Munch In His Own Words, Munich, London & New York, 2003, p. 67).
Munch painted Robat pa sjoen during a period of relative calm; some years later he would have a breakdown several years later, but, for now, was enjoying a great deal of success, having sold hundreds of his prints earlier in the year. He had signed contracts with art dealers and had also accepted a commission to paint a frieze for the nursery at the home of the German eye expert Dr Max Linde, who had published monographs on the author. Munch worked on potential themes for the frieze during the summer of 1904 while he was at Asgardstrand. While Linde felt that Munch's subjects were not suited to the nursery, not least because they featured kissing couples, they nonetheless provided a great impetus for Munch to paint during this period. The project also furnished Linde with an inside perspective on his working methods which is pertinent when looking at the expressionistic foreground of Robat pa sjoen. 'Munch can go for weeks without actually putting brush to canvas, merely saying "Ich male mit meine Gehirne" in his broken German ["I'm painting with my senses"],' Linde once wrote. 'He carries on like that for a long time, just absorbing, until suddenly he will give shape to what he has seen, pouring his whole body and soul into his work. Then it is only a matter of days, even hours, before his pictures are ready. He puts everything he has into them. That is why his pictures have such a feeling of greatness, of genius' (Munch, quoted in R. Stang, Edvard Munch: The Man and the Artist, London, 1979, p. 187).
Robat pa sjoen was formerly in the collection of Nils Onsager, a lawyer and supporter of both culture and nature whom Munch knew. Indeed, he was the subject of two depictions by the artist some years later. It was later owned by the shipping magnate Ludvig G. Braathen who also founded the airline Braathens SAFE and acquired an impressive collection that included an array of modern and Old Master paintings.