Edvard Munch, 1863-1944, Painter

Edvard Munch was five years old when his mother died of tuberculosis; nine years later he lost his sister to the same disease. He was raised by his father, a doctor serving the poor, and his world was always marked by illness and death. At age sixteen he enrolled in the school of arts and crafts in Oslo, Norway, and painted his first portraits, depicting his relatives and friends.

In 1889, having won an Art scholarship, he traveled to Paris, where he almost immediately fell into a debilitating depression upon learning of the death of his father. It was during this dark period, however, that he discovered the work of Gauguin and the Impressionists.

After returning to Oslo, where an exhibition of his work attracted great attention, he was invited to exhibit his paintings in Berlin in 1892. There the uncompromisingly personal subject matter of his paintings so shocked the organizers of the exhibition that they shut it down after only a week. However, in this short time Munch’s work had deeply impressed a number of young German artists, and it was to exercise a strong influence on German Expres­sionism. Munch’s painting Evening on Karl-Johann Street shows the degree to which Munch had assimilated ~ the lessons of Impressionism and distanced himself from realist conventions. He reduced forms to areas of color, often dark and flatly applied, contained within sinuous outlines recalling the arabesques of the Art Nouveau style. The anguished emotional content of his paintings, however, could hardly be more distant from either Impression­ism or Art Nouveau. The Scream and Anguish particularly convey his tragic, almost desperate sense of life. In Paris, at the Salon des Independants of 1897, Munch exhibited his Dance of Life, a pessimistic vision of human destiny.

A difficult period of instability and depression began in 1898, during which the artist painted somber landscapes (Summer Night at the Seashore). With the onset of a serious psychological cri­sis, he entered a clinic. After his release he remained in Norway, where the Uni­versity of Oslo commissioned frescoes from him entitled The Mountain of Men.  These paintings mark his return to a more figurative art and a lighter palette.

In 1937 Munch took part in the In­ternational Exposition in Paris, at the very time when, in Germany, the Nazi government was seizing his canvases, which it considered examples of “degenerate” art. In his old age Munch pro­duced a series of self-portraits recording his unceasing exploration of his own destiny (Nocturnal Vagabond, 1939).

A precursor of Expressionisism Munch’s work greatly influenced that of a number of German artists, particularly Emil Nolde, Ludwig Kirchner, and Erich Heckel.

Article courtesy of ‘The beginners guide to Art’ , translated from the French by John Goodman, ediited by Brigitte Govignon.  The article was brought to you by Blue Horizon Printing ,experts in premium quality canvas prints.

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