Occupation: Painter, Printmaker
Education: Royal School of Art and Design, Christiania
Edvard Munch was a Norwegian painter who built upon the main tenets of Symbolism and became an influential figure in the German Expressionist movement. His works are known for following intensely emotional and psychological themes.
“The Scream,” 1893
“Starry Night,” 1893
“The Kiss,” 1897
“The Dance of Life,” 1900
“The Death of Marat I,” 1906-7
Munch was born in Ådalsbruk in Løten, Norway, on December 12, 1863. The Munch family moved to Christiania (present day Oslo) when Edvard’s father Christian, a doctor and medical officer got an appointment there. After his mother died of tuberculosis when he was about five years old, Munch was raised by his father and his aunt Karen. He had to stay home from school often as he was frequently unwell as a child and kept himself occupied with drawing. His childhood was overshadowed by his father’s morbid pietism and Munch would later say that his father was ‘obsessively religious’ and that he had ‘inherited the seeds of madness’ from his father. One of his younger sisters suffered from mental illness and this would be a theme that would appear in his art later on.
The family lived in constant poverty owing to his father’s meager military pay, moving from one squalid home to another and Munch’s early works depicted these sordid interiors. By the age of 13, Munch showed strong artistic tendencies. He admired the Norwegian landscapes that he saw at the Art Association and started copying the paintings.
Education and Influences
In 1879, Munch began studying engineering, but left after a year to become a painter. His father and even his neighbors tried to discourage him from what they considered to be an unholy trade. Munch persevered, writing that he wanted to ‘explain life and its meaning’ through his art.
In 1881, Munch enrolled at the Royal School of Art and Design in Christiania where he studied under naturalist painter Christian Krohg and sculptor Julius Middelthun.He first experimented with Naturalism and Impressionism but these works weren’t well received. Eventually, the artist broke away from Impressionism, which he found superficial, and went on to pursue the expression of deeper emotional and psychological states. He also became friends with Hans Jæger, the controversial Norwegian writer and Anarchist thinker who was the subject of many of his portraits. Edvard’s relationship with his father was strained ever since he’d decided to pursue art and although his father supported him financially in part, he did not approve of the bohemian and artistic circles that his son moved around in.
Munch travelled to Paris in 1886. Here he painted “The Sick Child” based on the death of his sister, a work he claimed was his first soul painting. This is the painting that first got him acclaim.Following a large exhibition in Christiania, Munch received a state award to travel and chose to go to Paris, where he studied briefly under French painter Léon Bonnat. He also started familiarizing himself with the city’s art scene.
By the 1890s, Munch had come into his own, becoming known for his Symbolist direction. In 1892, Munch was invited to exhibit his work in Berlin by the Union of Berlin Artists, and this became the first one-man exhibition presented by the group. However, the exhibition led to intense controversy and was shut down within a week of its opening. In 1893, Munch painted his best known painting, “The Scream”. With this piece, Munch accomplished his stated goal of creating art that captured inner emotions. A walk that the artist took with friends along a river inspired the scene. Munch said that just as the sky changed color at dusk, he heard the ‘infinite scream of nature’ and it was this emotional experience that inspired the painting. The masterpiece captures the universal angst of humankind and has the power to elicit an instant emotional response from any viewer. “The Scream” exists in different formats: two pastels, two paintings and several lithographs.
In 1893, Munch started work on a series of paintings under the theme ‘Frieze of Life’. This series included “Puberty”, “Woman in Three Stages” and “The Dance of Life”. Munch revisited this theme through the 1890s, and late in the decade, Munch began to receive critical validation.With his exhibitions drawing a good crowd, his financial situation improved and he received attention from patrons like Albert Kollman and Max Linde.
Munch returned to Norway for good in 1910 and spent the last two decades of his life living at his estate Ekely, inSkøyen, Oslo. In the last years that he spent here, Munch’s art became less pessimistic and more colorful, and veered towards nature and farm life.
Munch died on January 23, 1944 at his estate, leaving much of his work, his uncatalogued biographical and literary notes to the city of Oslo. The Munch Museum at Tøyen was built in his honor.
Nationalgalerie, Berlin and National Gallery, Oslo, 1927
Museum of Modern Art, New York, 2006
Tate Modern, London, 2012
1863 - Born in Ådalsbruk, Norway
1879 - Joins a technical college to study engineering
1881 - Joins the Royal School of Art and Design at Christiania
1892 - Develops his theory of synthetist aesthetic
1893 - Paints “The Scream”
1944 - Dies in Skøyen, Oslo
1902 - Hall of Berlin Secession, Berlin
1927 - Nationalgalerie, Berlin and National Gallery, Oslo,
2006 - Museum of Modern Art, New York,
2012 - Tate Modern, London
2012 - Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt, Germany
Art Institute of Chicago
Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco
J.Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
Munch Museum, Oslo, Norway
Tate Gallery, London
Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Texas
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Musee d’Orsay, Paris
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
Museum of Modern Art, New York City
National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.
National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa
Cleveland Museum of Art, Ohio
Neue Pinakothek, Munich, Germany
“The Story of Edvard Munch ” by Ketil Bjornstad and Torbjorn
“Edvard Munch: Behind the Scream” by Sue Prideaux
“Munch” by Ulrich Bischoff
“Edvard Munch: 1863-1944” by Jon-Ove Steihaug and Mai Britt Guleng