Artists People

Edvard Munch

the scream

Edvard Munch was a Norwegian artist.  He was born on December 12, 1863 in Ådalsbruk, Løten, Norway. Mama Munch was named Laura.  Papa Munch was a medical officer and doctor and the son of a priest.  His name was Christian.  Edvard had three younger siblings and an older sister.  He is related to the painter Jacob Munch.

The Munch family moved to Oslo in 1864.  Laura passed away two years later from tuberculosis.  Edvard’s older sister died in 1877.  He was often ill himself and would draw to pass the time.  Money was tight and art was his main escape.  He fell in love with aesthetic beauty by the age of thirteen.  Edvard Munch attended a technical college in 1879.  He majored in engineering and was exceptional in math, chemistry and physics.  He mastered technical and perspective drawings.  Painting consumed his focus and Munch dropped out after a year.

The Royal School of Art and Design in Kristiania was his destination in 1881.  He studied under the naturalist painter Christian Krohg.  He excelled in figure painting and took part in his first public exhibit it in 1883.  Munch’s early work was similar to Manet.  He experimented with impressionism and naturalism.  Early critical review was less than positive.  His father was disappointed in his career choice, but provided financial support.  Papa loved Little E.

the sick child
The Sick Child (1886) – Photo Credit: jnkypt

Edvard Munch’s Early Career

He fell in with a bohemian crowd of nihilists and continued to perfect his craft.  Some time passed and he broke away from the impressionists.  Intense inner self-discovery led him to push traditional boundaries and find a deeper perspective.  His goal was to examine the soul and the human condition.  Edvard claimed that his 1886 painting The Sick Child was his official turning point.  The proactive piece that was based on his sister’s death was shunned by the pundits and caused a rift within his family.  His friend and former teacher Krogh defended his vision.  His justification was prophetic.

Munch’s style and brushstrokes wavered.  He sifted through different techniques and color palettes.  His first solo show occurred in 1889.  It caught the attention of the French painter Léon Bonnat.  He was offered a two-year scholarship.  Edvard moved to Paris.  Lessons were in the morning.  They bored the young master.  Museum and gallery visits were in the afternoon.  The young master was entertained.  Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Paul Gauguin and Vincent van Gogh were his favorites.  Edvard Munch’s father died at the end of the year.  He returned to Norway and stabilized the family.

His painting Melancholy was exhibited in Oslo in 1891.  The hype carried him to a show hosted by the Union of Berlin Artists in November.  He moved to Germany and stayed for four years.  He affiliated with a famous circle of writers and critics.  Some became his subject matter.  His style matured and he spent his free time writing and drinking.  He completed his Magnum opus in 1893.  It was a real scream.

the scream
The Scream (1893) – Photo Credit: Prof. Mortel

The Scream

The Scream was created four separate times.  Two pastel based pictures were made in 1893 and 1895.  Two paintings were composed in 1893 and 1910.  Lithographs were produced casually over the following years.  The famous artwork was his complete study of the soul and evaluated Munch’s inner being.  His inspiration was drawn from an evening stroll set against a blood red sky.  An auditory hallucination of a scream pierced his body and the rest is history.  Fast forward to 2012 and the painting sold for almost one hundred twenty million dollars.  The protagonist was the inspiration for the mask of the 1996 horror film Scream.  It made over one hundred seventy million at the box office.  Total score…film one, painting zero.

Days flashed by and Edvard Munch had several shows in Germany.  He was famous.  The century turned and he focused on more modern art styles.  He continued to paint the human condition.  His more iconoclastic pieces drew negative press.  He moved back to Pairs in 1896.  Woodcut lithographic techniques were easily mastered.  He continued to outpace the ethos and his work was often too brutal and violent for the masses.  The lurid painter moved to Norway in 1897.  Excessive drinking began to weaken his health.

He met a wealthy woman and fled from the concept of marriage.  His refuge was Berlin.  He kept painting and the critics started to warm up to his imagination.  The praise landed him back in Paris in 1903.  The Fauvists recognized his talent and attached on to him.  Munch’s unique style manipulated portions of Fauvism style.  Agoraphobia and alcoholism drove him made in 1908.  He convalesced and was treated.  His first American exhibit was held in New York in 1912.  Less drinking, more big apples.

edvard munch
Edvard Munch – Photo Credit: Nasjonalbiblioteket

He spent the last twenty years of his life alone in his Oslo estate.  He continued to paint and would leave to complete commissions.  The Nazi invasion of Norway resulted in the confiscation of his art.  The seventy-one pieces were collected and returned over the years.  Edvard Munch passed away on January 23, 1944.  He was eighty years old.

“Nature is not only all that is visible to the eye… it also includes the inner pictures of the soul.”

– Edvard Munch
edvard munch 1
Edvard Munch painting – Photo Credit: Tom Hilton

8 comments on “Edvard Munch

  1. never knew this, great to learn though… how about a piece on Hironimas Bosch (sp)

  2. I really enjoyed this – Edvard Munch’s “The Scream” is my favorite painting. I’d have to check your previous posts but I’d love to read about Edgar Allen Poe if you haven’t written about him.

  3. So much movement in his work. Thanks for the lesson.

  4. Thank you, valuable information. I always thought he was sold short by ‘The Scream’ – he did so many things that were better. But it was a hard life, despite his fame, so no blame attaches.

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