We want more than a mere photograph of nature.We do not want to paint pretty pictures to be hung ondrawing-room walls. We want to create, or at least lay the foundations of, an art that gives somethingto humanity. An art that arrests and engages. An art created of one’s innermost heart.
Edvard Munch, Norway’s greatest painter, began his long careerin 1880 at the age of seventeen. He brought art and life togetherby communicating his own personal experience passionately. Hisintense expression of raw human emotion and his exploration ofpsychological states have a universal appeal which still speaks tous today.
, Munch’s iconic work, has come to symbolise theangst of modern man in today’s frenetic society and, like the
, is one of the most frequently reproduced images in the world.Munch worked in a variety of media, repeatedly exploring the samethemes in painting, drawing, etching, lithography, photography andwoodcuts.Potent imagery and dramatic use of heightened colour, both radicalin their time, combined with his innovative studio techniques,have secured Munch’s reputation as one of the most revered andinuential artists of the twentieth century.
Disease and madness and death were the black angelsstanding over my cradle.
Munch was born in 1863 into a poor but well educated, middle-class Norwegian family. His father, Christian Munch, an intenselyconservative and religious man, worked as a doctor with the armywhilst his mother, Laura, looked after their children.Munch’s early life was scarred by a series of traumatic events whichprofoundly shaped the development of his work. Apart from beingplagued by illness himself, his suffering was compounded when hismother died of tuberculosis (he was then ve years old), causing hisfather to develop a religious fervour which brought him to the vergeof insanity. Nine years later, Munch lost his older sister Sophie, alsoto tuberculosis. His brother, Andreas, also died young in 1895.Interestingly, Munch conceded as an adult that the depressioncaused by this very pain and suffering was the driving force behindhis creative life, saying, ‘I would not cast off my illness for there ismuch in my art that I owe to it’.In 1880, Munch entered the School of Design in Kristiania (nowcalled Oslo) and studied drawing under one of the leading sculptorsof the day. His early works reect the inuence of Christian Krohgwho trained him in the schools of Naturalism and Plein Air, andwho became a great advocate of Munch’s work when initially it wassavagely rejected by Norwegian society.By the mid 1880s, Munch had become part of an anarchistic groupof artists and writers led by the philosopher Hans Jaeger, whosebook detailing his sexual exploits and Bohemian lifestyle wasconsidered so shocking in the prevailing puritanical society thathe was sent to prison. Jaeger’s belief that art should be inspiredby one’s personal experience and inner life guided Munch towardsexpressing the emotional turmoil he was experiencing.At the age of twenty-two, Munch had a tumultuous affair witha married woman, Milly Thaulow, known in his diaries as ‘MrsHeiberg’, the rst great love of his life. His adulterous behaviour wasso contrary to the strict moral upbringing enforced by his father thathe was haunted by overwhelming feelings of guilt.Munch’s lucid and evocative writings are as expressive as his art,and about this time he started to write what later became knownas his literary diaries, where he described love scenes, childhoodtragedies and impressions of Kristiania café society.
I began as an Impressionist but it was limited and I had to nd another way of expressing the emotional turmoil I experienced during that Bohemian period of my life …
‘The Sick Child’
was the rst break from Impressionism– I was searching for expression.
When Munch’s early works reecting his intense personal pain,such as
The sick child
(exhibited under the title
in 1886),were exhibited in Kristiania, the unashamedly raw application ofthe paint and the ‘unnished’ quality caused a storm of protestsfrom the press and public. Despite this initial hostile response, hisone-man exhibition in 1889, which was more optimistic in tone andfeatured a monumental portrait of Hans Jaeger, secured him therst of a series of state scholarships which allowed him to study inFrance for three years.At this time, Munch stayed in a house in Åsgårdstrand, a seasideretreat to which he returned almost every summer for twenty yearsand which was the setting for numerous paintings.
Edvard Munch: The Frieze of Life
Death in the sickroom
Døden i sykevoerelset
) 1896. Hand-coloured lithograph. Munch-museet, Oslo
S el f - p or t r ai t onh i s t r unk i nh i s s t u d i oi n 8 2 L ü t z ow s t r a s s ei nB er l i n
1 9 0 2 . C ol l o d i on s i l v er ph o t o gr a ph .M un ch -m u s e e t , O s l o
Edvard MunchEdvard Munch