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Munch, Edvard

Edvard Munch

Born: December 12, 1863
Loieten, Norway
Died: January 23, 1944
Oslo, Norway

Norwegian painter and artist

The Norwegian painter and graphic artist Edvard Munch illustrated man's emotional life in love and death. His art was a major influence of the expressionist movement, in which where artists sought to give rise to emotional responses.

Early life

Born on December 12, 1863, in Loieten, near Kristiania (now Oslo), Norway, Edvard Munch was the son of a military doctor. Childhood experiences with death and sicknessboth his mother and sister died of tuberculosis (an often-fatal disease that attacks the lungs and bones)greatly influenced his emotional and intellectual development. This and his father's fanatic Christianity led Munch to view his life as dominated by the "twin black angels of insanity and disease."

After studying engineering, Munch soon turned to art. In 1880 Munch began to study art and joined the realist painters (school of painters who sought to depict their subjects as realistically as possible) and writers of the Kristiania bohemian (fashionable and unconventional) circle. His ideas were strongly influenced at this time by the writer Hans Jaeger (18541910), who sought to establish an ideal society based on materialist atheism (not believing in material wealth) and free love. Jaeger's hopeless love affair with the wife of Christian Krohg, leader of the bohemian painters, and Munch's own brief affairs caused him to intensify the connection he saw between women, love, and death.

Munch's paintings during the 1880s were dominated by his desire to use the artistic vocabulary of realism to create subjective content, or content open to interpretation of the viewer. His Sick Child (18851886), which used a motif (dominant theme) popular among Norwegian realist artists, created through color a mood of depression that served as a memorial to his dead sister. Because of universal critical rejection, Munch turned briefly to a more mainstream style, and through the large painting Spring (1889), a more academic version of the Sick Child, he obtained state support for study in France.

A change

After studying briefly at a Parisian art school, Munch began to explore the possibilities made available by the French postimpressionists, a movement that looked to push impressionism beyond its limitations. The death of his father in 1889 caused a major spiritual crisis, and he soon rejected Jaeger's philosophy. Munch's Night in St. Cloud (1890) embodied a renewed interest in spiritual content; this painting served as a memorial to his father by presenting the artist's dejected state of mind. He summarized his intentions, saying "I paint not what I see, but what I saw," and identified his paintings as "symbolism: nature viewed through a temperament" (manner of thinking). Both statements accent the transformation of nature as the artist experienced it.

In 1892 the Berlin Artists' Association, an official organization consisting primarily of German academic artists, invited Munch to exhibit in Berlin, Germany. His paintings created a major scandal in Germany's artistic capital, and the exhibition was closed. But Munch used the publicity to arrange other exhibitions and sell paintings; his art prospered and he decided to stay in Germany. He also began work on a series of paintings later entitled the Frieze of Life, which concentrated on the themes of love, anxiety, and death.

To make his work accessible to a larger public, Munch began making prints (works of art that could be easily copied) in 1894. Motifs for his prints were usually derived from his paintings, particularly the Frieze. The Frieze also served as the inspiration for the paintings he made for Max Linde (1904), Max Reinhardt's Kammerspielhaus (1907), and the Freia Chocolate Factory in Oslo (1922).

Later years

Following a nervous breakdown, Munch entered a hospital in Copenhagen, Denmark, in 1908. In the lithograph (a type of print) series Alpha and Omega he depicted his love affairs and his relationship to friends and enemies. In 1909 he returned to Norway to lead an isolated life. He sought new artistic motifs in the Norwegian landscape and in the activities of farmers and laborers. A more optimistic view of life briefly replaced his former anxiety, and this new life view attained monumental expression in the murals of the Oslo University Aula (19111914).

During World War I (191418), when Germany led forces against the forces of much of Europe and the United States, Munch returned to his earlier motifs of love and death. Symbolic paintings and prints appeared side by side with stylized studies of landscapes and nudes during the 1920s. As a major project, never completed, he began to illustrate Henrik Ibsen's (18281906) plays. During his last years, plagued by partial blindness, Munch edited the diaries written in his youth and painted harsh self-portraits and memories of his earlier life. He died in Ekely outside Oslo on January 23, 1944.

For More Information

Eggum, Arne. Edvard Munch: Paintings, Sketches, and Studies. New York: C. N. Potter, 1984.

Heller, Reinhold. Edvard Munch: The Scream. New York: Viking, 1972.

Langaard, Johan H., and Reidar Revold. Edvard Munch. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1963.

Stang, Ragna. Edvard Munch: The Man and His Art. Edited by Geoffrey Culverwell. New York: Abbeville Press, 1979.

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Edvard Munch

Edvard Munch

The Norwegian painter and graphic artist Edvard Munch (1863-1944), working in an antinaturalistic expressionist style, illustrated man's emotional life in love and death. His art was a major antecedent of the expressionist movement.

Born on Dec. 12, 1863, in Loieten near Kristiania (now Oslo), Edvard Munch was the son of a military doctor. Childhood experiences with death and sickness—both his mother and sister died of tuberculosis— greatly influenced his emotional and intellectual development. This and his father's fanatic Christianity led Munch to view his life as dominated by the "twin black angels of insanity and disease."

In 1880 Munch began to study art and joined the realist painters and writers of the Kristiania bohemian circle. His ideas were strongly influenced at this time by the anarchist writer Hans Jaeger, who sought to establish an ideal society based on materialist atheism and free love. Jaeger's hopeless love affair with the wife of Christian Krohg, dean of the bohemian painters, and Munch's own brief affairs caused him to intensify the identity he saw between women, love, and death.

Munch's paintings during the 1880s were dominated by his desire to use the artistic vocabulary of realism to render subjective content. His depiction of the Sick Child (1885-1886), which employed a motif popular among Norwegian realist artists, coloristically rendered a mood of melancholy depression serving as a pictorial memorial to his dead sister. Because of universal critical rejection, Munch turned briefly to a more conservative style and through the large painting Spring (1889), a more academic version of the Sick Child, he obtained state support for study in France.

After studying briefly at a Parisian art school, Munch began to explore the possibilities made available by the French postimpressionists. The death of his father in 1889 caused a major spiritual crisis, culminating in his rejection of Jaeger's philosophy. Munch's Night in St. Cloud (1890) embodied a renewed interest in spiritual content; this painting served as a memorial to his father by presenting the artist's dejected state of mind. He summarized his intentions, "I paint not what I see, but what I saw," and identified his paintings as "symbolism: nature viewed through a temperament." Both statements accent the transformation of nature as the artist experienced it.

In 1892 the Berlin Artists' Association, an official organization consisting primarily of German academic artists, invited Munch to exhibit there. His paintings provoked a major scandal in Germany's artistically provincial capital, and the exhibition was forcibly closed. But Munch used the publicity to arrange other exhibitions and sell paintings; his art prospered and he decided to stay in Germany. He also began work on a series of paintings later entitled the Frieze of Life, which concentrated on the themes of love, anxiety, and death. Incorporating many of his best-known works, the Frieze was essentially completed in 1893 but not exhibited as a unit until 1902.

To make his work accessible to a larger public, Munch began making prints in 1894. Motifs for his prints were usually derived from his paintings, particularly the Frieze. The Frieze also served as the inspiration for the paintings he made for Max Linde (1904), Max Reinhardt's Kammerspielhaus (1907), and the Freia Chocolate Factory in Oslo (1922).

Following a nervous breakdown, Munch entered a sanatorium in Copenhagen in 1908. In the lithograph series Alpha and Omega he allegorically depicted his love affairs and his relationship to friends and enemies. In 1909 he returned to Norway to lead an isolated life. He sought new artistic motifs in the Norwegian landscape and in the activities of farmers and laborers. A more optimistic view of life briefly replaced his former existential anxiety, and this new life view attained monumental expression in the murals of the Oslo University Aula (1911-1914).

During World War I Munch returned to his earlier motifs of love and death; his own increasing age combined with the tensions of world affairs to arouse a new pessimism in him. Symbolic paintings and prints appeared side by side with stylized studies of landscapes and nudes during the 1920s; as a major project, never completed, he began to illustrate Henrik Ibsen's plays. During his last years, plagued by partial blindness, Munch edited the diaries written in his youth and painted harsh self-portraits and memories of his earlier life. He died in Ekely outside Oslo on Jan. 23, 1944.

Further Reading

Some of Munch's own writings are contained in Johan H. Langaard and Reidar Revold, Edvard Munch (1963; trans. 1964). Reinhold Heller, Edvard Munch: The Scream (1972), is the first book in English to make use of Munch's unpublished writings and of his drawings; although it concentrates on a single drawing, it serves as an introduction to his art in general. □

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Munch, Edvard

Edvard Munch (ĕd´värt mŏŏngk), 1863–1944, Norwegian painter and graphic artist. He studied in Oslo and under Bonnat in Paris and traveled in Europe. He abandoned impressionism and in the 1890s, from a profound personal sense of isolation, visually examined such primal themes as birth, death, thwarted love, sex, fear, and anxiety. Stricken by tragedy (his mother and favorite sister died young, another sister was psychotic, and he feared for his own sanity), Munch transformed his own trauma into an exploration of universal themes, creating figurative images that are sometimes violent, sometimes tranquil and sorrowful. He also executed a masterful series of self-portraits. Munch's emotionally charged style is recognized as being of primary importance to the birth of German expressionism. Also during the 1890s, Munch's most productive period, he made a number of powerful and often shocking woodcuts, developing a new technique of direct and forceful cutting that served to revive creative activity in this medium.

Among Munch's strongest and best-known works are The Scream (1893), Vampire (1894), and The Kiss (1895). Reaction to his stark and sometimes fearsome images caused the closing of his first major exhibition held in Berlin in 1892. In 1909, after a severe mental illness, he returned from Germany to Norway, where he painted murals for the Univ. of Oslo and for an Oslo chocolate factory. His painting became brighter of palette and less introverted until the 1920s, when he again was moved to portray his dreadful anguish. All but a few of Munch's paintings, e.g. Summer Night's Dream (The Voice) (1893, Boston Mus. of Fine Arts), are in Norwegian collections.

See Munch: In His Own Words (2001), ed. by P. E. Tojner; The Private Journals of Edvard Munch (2005), ed. by J. G. Holland; biographies by O. Benesch (tr. 1960) and S. Prideaux (2005); studies by A. Moen (3 vol., 1956–58), W. Timm (tr. 1969), J. P. Hodin (1972), T. M. Messer (1973), G. Woll (2001), and K. McShine, ed. (2006).

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Munch, Edvard

Munch, Edvard (1863–1944) Norwegian painter and printmaker. Munch was one of the most influential of modern artists, inspiring expressionism. Munch's tortured, isolated figures and violent colouring caused a scandal when he exhibited his work in Berlin in 1892, but his paintings inspired progressive artists to form the Sezession. Munch compiled a series of studies of love and death entitled a Frieze of Life, which included The Scream (1893). Other important works are Ashes (1894) and Virginia Creeper (1898).

http://www.edvard-munch.com

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Edvard Munch

Edvard Munch ★★ 1974

Biographical portrait of the Norwegian Expressionist painter and his tormented life in the stuffy society of 19th-century Oslo. Concentrates mainly on his early years, including the deaths of his mother and younger sister, his brother's suicide, Munch's affair with a married woman, and his struggle to maintain his sanity. Based on Munch's memoirs. In German and Norwegian with English subtitles. 167m/C VHS, DVD . NO Geir Westby, Gro Fraas, Eli Ryg; D: Peter Watkins; W: Peter Watkins; C: Odd Geir Saether.

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Munch, Edvard

MUNCH, EDVARD

MUNCH, EDVARD (1883–1944), Norwegian painter and printmaker.

Edvard Munch is recognized as a major, influential contributor to the international symbolist movement of the 1890s and, especially in his woodcuts, as a precursor of German expressionism. The paintings and prints Munch devoted to his image of The Scream (1893 and 1896) are his best known works and have become universally popular icons of anxiety and despair, widely reproduced in everything from posters to blow-up dolls.

Munch was born into a family that, since the eighteenth century, had been a leading contributor to Norway's religious, intellectual, and artistic life. Among his ancestors, Munch counted bishops, the historian Peter Andreas Munch (1810–1863), and the painter Jacob Munch (1776–1839), a student of Jacques-Louis David's (1748–1825). The cultural prestige did not translate into wealth, however, and Munch's own father was a military doctor whose civilian practice was located in the worker's districts of Christiania (as the city of Oslo was named until 1924). Dr. Christian Munch and his wife, Laura Cathrine Bjølstad, lived modestly, therefore, and raised their five children—Edvard was their second child and first son—according to strict pietistic Lutheran principles. Poor health, however, marked the family: Laura Munch died shortly after giving birth to her youngest child in 1868; the oldest child, Johanne Sophie, died of tuberculosis in 1877; Edvard similarly suffered from bronchitis and other respiratory diseases, nearly dying in 1878. "Sickness, insanity and death were the dark angels that stood watch at my cradle and since then have followed me throughout my life," Munch later remarked, and he traced both his personality and his art back to the stifling religious and morbid atmosphere of his childhood home.

The consensus of art historical studies concurs with Munch's assessment that a transparent symbiotic relationship exists between his art and his life. His first major work, The Sick Child (1884–1885), sets the paradigmatic pattern that other works later follow, as it depicts the artist's recollection of his dying sister and her grieving aunt, Karen Bjølstad, who sits at her side. Most significantly, however, the painting breaks radically with the stylistic approaches of naturalism and realism as its subjectively rendered forms, colors, and spatial organization prophetically shape a protoexpressionist art and content. In his drastic artistic innovations around 1885, Munch received the support of the Norwegian anarchist writer Hans Henrik Jæger (1854–1910) and the grouping of Norwegian students, writers, and artists known as the Christiania Bohème. Advocating anarchism, atheism, free love, and an autobiographic experimental art, the Bohème offered the young artist a conflict-laden alternative to the conservative Christian values of his home. It served as a setting, moreover, for a tumultuous love affair with a married woman, Milly Thaulow, that significantly shaped the attitudes toward women and love that became the focus of Munch's major works of the 1890s.


Munch retreated from the unprecedented stylistic innovations of his Sick Child for several years due to the harsh criticism of his work. In 1889, however, he received a fellowship for study in Paris, where the innovations of impressionism, neoimpressionism, and synthetism asserted themselves in a new radical subjectivism in his art. He began to work on motifs such as Death in the Sickroom, Melancholy, Madonna, The Kiss, Jealousy, and The Scream that he then exhibited in 1893 in Berlin as part of a series of paintings entitled Love. Munch continued to work on the series throughout the 1890s and exhibited the completed frieze of twenty-two paintings in 1902 in Berlin; after selling a number of the paintings, Munch reworked many of the motifs for exhibition in 1915 as The Frieze of Life. A personal pictorial commentary on the nature of love, death, and the continuities of life and art, the Frieze motifs were also translated into prints, especially lithographs and woodcuts, beginning in 1895. Just as his paintings predicted the art of expressionism, so too his color woodcuts, such as The Kiss, with their broad flat forms, accentuated carving process, and visible wood graining served as prototypes for expressionist graphic art.

Munch suffered a nervous breakdown in 1908 and, after treatment in Copenhagen, returned to Norway, where he received the commission to paint the murals for the Festival Hall of the University in Christiania, a project completed in 1915. Altered art market circumstances during World War I, moreover, brought notable changes in his work as he painted new variants on his Frieze paintings but also focused more on landscape, composed figure paintings, and portraits in a persistently changing, experimental style. He continued to exhibit new works assiduously throughout the 1920s and 1930s inter-nationally, especially in Scandinavia, the United States, and Germany. Long neglected or denigrated by scholars and critics in favor of his symbolist and protoexpressionist paintings and prints, this late work is now being reevaluated and historically situated as art history moves away from modernist paradigms to accept a more pluralistic, contextual perspective of his work.

See alsoImpressionism; Painting; Sweden and Norway; Van Gogh, Vincent.

bibliography

Eggum, Arne. Edvard Munch: Paintings, Sketches and Studies. Translated by Ragnar Christophersen. New York, 1984.

Heller, Reinhold. Munch: His Life and Work. Chicago, 1984.

Tøjner, Poul Erik, ed. Munch: In His Own Words. New York, 2001.

Woll, Gerd. Edvard Munch: The Complete Graphic Works. London, 2001.

Reinhold Heller

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