Off Topic Post, Edvard Munch

I felt like going a little off topic today with one of my other interests, art. Edvard Munch has to be one of my favourite artists. First seeing his iconic The Scream I was then fascinated with the artist who could paint madness so intensely and vividly, he was Norway's most popular artist. His popular painting of 1893 has had many views and but his other work quite shadowed by it in modern times. So who was Edvard Munch?

Edvard Munch was a Norwegian painter who was born in Adalsbruk on the 12th of December 1863. He was related to famous painters and artists in their own right, Jacob Munch (painter), and Peter Munch (historian). He was born to Laura Catherine Bjølstad and Christian Munch. Edvard had an elder sister, Johanne Sophie, and three younger siblings: Peter Andreas, Laura Catherine, and Inger Marie.

A few years after he was born, Edvard Munch's mother died of tuberculosis in 1868, and he was raised by his father.

Edvard Munch 1921.jpg

Munch In 1921

Edvard's father suffered mental illness, and this played a role in the way he and his siblings were raised. Their father raised them impounding fears of hell, and other deep seated issues, which is part of the reason why the work of Edvard Munch took a deeper tone, and why the artist was known to have so many repressed emotions as he grew up.

Munch's convulsed and tortuous art was formed by the misery and conflicts of his time, and, even more important, by his own unhappy life. Childhood tragedy, intense and dramatic love affairs, alcoholism, and ceaseless traveling are reflected in his works, particularly in paintings like The Sick Child, The Scream, and Vampire. Munch's pictures show his social awareness and his tendency to express, as in Puberty, many of the basic fears and anxieties of mankind.

Munch went on to write about his father, "My father was temperamentally nervous and obsessively religious—to the point of psychoneurosis. From him I inherited the seeds of madness. The angels of fear, sorrow, and death stood by my side since the day I was born.

In 1879, Munch enrolled in a technical college to study engineering, where he excelled in physics, chemistry, and math. He learned scaled and perspective drawing, but frequent illnesses interrupted his studies. The following year, much to his father's disappointment, Munch left the college determined to become a painter. His father viewed art as an "unholy trade".

In 1881 Munch enrolled in Royal School of Art and Design of Christiania, one of whose founders was his distant relative Jacob Munch. During his time at the Royal School of Art and Design Munch demonstrated his quick absorption of his figure training at the Academy in his first portraits, including one of his father and his first self-portrait.

In 1883, Munch took part in his first public exhibition. His full-length portrait of Karl Jensen-Hjell, a notorious bohemian-about-town was not accepted and said to be a travesty of art.

The nude paintings from his time survive only in sketches, except for Standing Nude (1887), it is thought to have been confiscated by his father.

In 1889 Munch moved to Paris funded by two year state scholarship to study in Paris under French painter Leon Bonnat. His two year scholarship was awarded to him due to Munch presenting his first one man show of nearly all his works to date (1889) His work included His Inger On the Beach which caused confusion and controversy. Portrait of Hans Jæger and Rue Lafayette. During this time Munch he struggled to define his style. Inger on the the beach was the only painting during this time to hint at heavy outlines, sharp contrasts, and emotional content of his mature style to come.

His time in Paris was spent by in the morning being in Bonnat's busy studio and in the afternoons at the exhibitions, galleries, and museums.

After his fathers death Munch had to leave Paris and return to the family home, his family having being left destitute. He returned home and arranged a large loan from a wealthy Norwegian collector when wealthy relatives failed to help, and assumed financial responsibility for his family from then on. His fathers death
depressed him and he was plagued by suicidal thoughts: I live with the dead, my mother, my sister, my grandfather, my father, kill yourself and then it's over. Why live?

In 1892, Adelsteen Normann, on behalf of the Union of Berlin Artists, invited Munch to exhibit at its November exhibition, the society's first one-man exhibition. However, his paintings evoked bitter controversy (dubbed "The Munch Affair") and after one week the exhibition closed.

Munch was pleased with the great commotion and wrote in a letter: Never have I had such an amusing time, it's incredible that something as innocent as painting should have created such a stir.

In Berlin, Munch involved himself in an international circle of writers, artists and critics, including the Swedish dramatist and leading intellectual August Strindberg, whom he painted in 1892. During his four years in Berlin, Munch sketched out most of the ideas that would comprise his major work, The Frieze of Life, first designed for book illustration but later expressed in paintings. He sold little, but made some income from charging entrance fees to view his controversial paintings Already, Munch was showing a reluctance to part with his paintings, which he termed his "children".

Munch moved back to Paris in 1896 where he focused on graphic representations of his "Frieze of Life" themes. He further developed his techniques. Munch's Self-Portrait With Skeleton Arm is done with an etching needle-and-ink method also used by Paul Klee Munch also produced multi colour versions of "The Sick Child" which sold well, as well as several nudes.

Many of the Parisian critics still considered Munch's work violent and brutal, even so his exhibitions received serious attention and good attendance. His financial situation had improved by 1897.

Munch then bought himself a summer house, a small fisherman's cabin built in the late 18th century, in the small town of Åsgårdstrand in Norway. He dubbed this home the "Happy House" and returned here almost every summer for the next twenty years.

In the autumn of 1908, Munch's anxiety, compounded by excessive drinking and brawling, had become acute. As he later wrote, my condition was verging on madness, it was touch and go. Subject to hallucinations and feelings of persecution. The therapy Munch received for the next eight months included electrification (a treatment then fashionable for nervous conditions, not to be confused with electroconvulsive therapy).

Munch's stay in hospital stabilized his personality, and after returning to Norway in 1909, his work became more colourful and less pessimistic. Further brightening his mood, the general public finally warmed to his work, and museums began to purchase his paintings. He was made a Knight of the Royal Order of St. Olav, for services in art. His first American exhibit was in 1912 in New York

As part of his recovery Munch was advised to socialize with good friends and avoid drinking in public. Munch followed this advice and in the process produced several full-length portraits of high quality of friends and patrons—honest portrayals devoid of flattery. He also created landscapes and scenes of people at work and play, using a new optimistic style—broad, loose brushstrokes of vibrant colour with frequent use of white space and rare use of black—with only occasional references to his morbid themes. With more income, Munch was able to buy several properties giving him new landscapes for his art and he was finally able to provide for his family.

Munch spent most of his last years in solitude at his estate in Ekely, at Skøyen, Oslo. Many of his late paintings celebrate farm life, including many where he used his work horse "Rousseau" as a model. Without any effort, Munch had a lot of female models, some of whom rumoured he had sexual relations with. They were the subjects of numerous nude paintings. Munch occasionally left his home to paint murals on commission, including those done for the Freia chocolate factory.

To the end of his life, Munch continued to paint self-portraits, adding to his self-searching cycle of his life and his unflinching series of snapshots of his emotional and physical states.

In the 1930s and 1940s, the Nazis labelled Munch's work "degenerate art" (along with Picasso, Paul Klee, Matisse, Gauguin and many other artists) and removed his 82 works from German museums.

Adolf Hitler announced in 1937, "For all we care, those prehistoric Stone Age culture barbarians and art stutterers can return to the caves of their ancestors and there can apply their primitive international scratching".

In 1940, the Germans invaded Norway and the Nazi party took over the government. Munch was seventy-six years old. With nearly an entire collection of his art in the second floor of his house, Munch lived in fear of a Nazi confiscation. Seventy-one of the paintings previously taken by the Nazis had found their way back to Norway through purchase by collectors (the other eleven were never recovered), including The Scream and The Sick Child, and they too were hidden from the Nazis.

Munch died in his house at Ekely near Oslo on 23 January 1944, about a month after his 80th birthday. His Nazi-orchestrated funeral left the impression with Norwegians that he was a Nazi sympathizer. The city of Oslo bought the Ekely estate from his heirs in 1946 and demolished his house in May 1960.

Major Works

The Scream 1893

Ashes 1894

Puberty 1895
Self Portrait with Burning Cigarette 1895
Death in the Sick Room 1895



The Dance of Life 1899-1900

Madonna 1894

Separation 1896

Lady from the Sea 1896


Death of Marat I 1907

There are of course a lot more of Edvard Munch's art work. This post is really long already so I'll let you Google the rest. For more of this work check out his self portraits and photography. Trust me they are just as good! For a more in depth read about Edvard Munch I would strongly recommend reading the autobiography written by Sue Prideaux.