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 Edvard Munch  (1863 - 1944)

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Lived/Active: Norway      Known for: expressionist figure and landscape painting, printmaking

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BIOGRAPHY for Edvard Munch
Facts/Data
Birth
1863 (Loten, Norway)
 
Death
1944 (Oslo, Norway)

Lived/Active
Norway


Self portrait - SELF-PORTRAIT WITH SPANISH FLU
© Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York


Often Known For
expressionist figure and landscape painting, printmaking

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Please note: Artists not classified as American in our database may have limited biographical data compared to the extensive information about American artists.

Edvard Munch (Norwegian pronunciation:, 12 December 1863 – 23 January 1944) was a Norwegian Symbolist painter, printmaker and an important forerunner of expressionist art. His best-known composition, The Scream, is part of a series The Frieze of Life, in which Munch explored the themes of love, fear, death, melancholia, and anxiety.

Edvard Munch was born in a rustic farmhouse in the village of Ådalsbruk in Løten, to Christian Munch, the son of a priest. The family moved to Christiania (now Oslo) in 1864 when Christian Munch was appointed medical officer at Akershus Fortress. Edvard's mother died of tuberculosis in 1868, as did Munch's favorite sister Johanne Sophie in 1877. After their mother's death, the Munch siblings were raised by their father and by their aunt Karen. Often ill for much of the winters and kept out of school, Edvard would draw to keep himself occupied, and received tutoring from his school mates and his aunt. Christian Munch also instructed his son in history and literature, and entertained the children with vivid ghost-stories and tales of Edgar Allan Poe.

Christian's positive behavior toward his children was overshadowed by his morbid pietism. Munch wrote, "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." Christian reprimanded his children by telling them that their mother was looking down from heaven and grieving over their misbehavior. The oppressive religious milieu, plus Edvard's poor health and the vivid ghost stories, helped inspire macabre visions and nightmares in Edvard, who felt death constantly advancing on him. One of Munch's younger sisters was diagnosed with mental illness at an early age. Of the five siblings only Andreas married, but he died a few months after the wedding. Munch would later write, "I inherited two of mankind's most frightful enemies—the heritage of consumption and insanity."

Christian Munch's military pay was very low, and his attempts at developing a private side practice failed, keeping his family in perennial poverty. They moved frequently from one sordid flat to another. Munch's early drawings and watercolors depicted these interiors, and the individual objects such as medicine bottles and drawing implements, plus some landscapes. By his teens, art dominated Munch's interests.

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", and his neighbors reacted bitterly and sent him anonymous letters. In contrast to his father's rabid pietism, Munch adopted an undogmatic stance toward art, writing in his diary his simple goal: "in my art I attempt to explain life and its meaning to myself."

In 1881, Munch enrolled at the Royal School of Art and Design of Christiania, one of whose founders was his distant relative Jacob Munch. His teachers were sculptor Julius Middelthun and naturalistic painter Christian Krohg. That year 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.

During these early years in his career, Munch experimented with many styles, including Naturalism and Impressionism. Some early works are reminiscent of Manet. Many of these attempts brought him unfavorable criticism from the press and garnered him constant rebukes by his father, who nonetheless provided him with small sums for living expenses. At one point, however, Munch's father, perhaps swayed by the negative opinion of Munch's cousin Edvard Diriks (an established, traditional painter), destroyed at least one painting (likely a nude) and refused to advance any more money for art supplies.

At that time, contrary to many of the other bohemians, Munch was still respectful of women, as well as reserved and well-mannered, but he began to give in to the binge drinking and brawling of his circle. He was unsettled by the sexual revolution going on at the time and by the independent women around him. He later turned cynical concerning sexual matters, expressed not only in his behavior and his art, but in his writings as well, an example being a long poem called The City of Free Love. Still dependent on his family for many of his meals, Munch's relationship with his father remained tense over concerns about his bohemian life.

After numerous experiments, Munch concluded that the Impressionist idiom did not allow sufficient expression. He found it superficial and too akin to scientific experimentation. He felt a need to go deeper and explore situations brimming with emotional content and expressive energy. Under Jaeger's commandment that Munch should "write his life", meaning that Munch should explore his own emotional and psychological state, Munch began a period of reflection and self-examination, recording his thoughts in his "soul's diary". This deeper perspective helped move him to a new view of his art. He wrote that his painting The Sick Child (1886), based on his sister's death, was his first "soul painting", his first break from Impressionism.

Munch continued to employ a variety of brushstroke technique and color palettes throughout the 1880s and early 1890s as he struggled to define his style. He began to carefully calculate his compositions to create tension and emotion. While stylistically influenced by the Post-Impressionists, what evolved was a subject matter which was symbolist in content, depicting a state of mind rather than an external reality. In 1889, Munch presented his first one-man show of nearly all his works to date. The recognition it received led to a two-year state scholarship to study in Paris under French painter Léon Bonnat.

Munch arrived in Paris during the festivities of the Exposition Universelle (1889) and roomed with two fellow Norwegian artists. His picture Morning (1884) was displayed at the Norwegian pavilion. He spent his mornings at Bonnat's busy studio (which included live female models) and afternoons at the exhibition, galleries, and museums (where students were to make copies). Munch recorded little enthusiasm for Bonnat's drawing lessons—"It tires and bores me—it's numbing"—but enjoyed the master's commentary during museum trips.

Munch was enthralled by the vast display of modern European art, including the works of three artists who would prove influential: Paul Gauguin, Vincent van Gogh, and Henri Toulouse-Lautrec—all notable for how they used color to convey emotion.  Munch was particularly inspired by Gauguin's "reaction against realism" and his credo that "art was human work and not an imitation of Nature", a belief earlier stated by Whistler.  As one of his Berlin friends stated later about Munch, "he need not make his way to Tahiti to see and experience the primitive in human nature. He carries his own Tahiti within him."

That December, his father died, leaving Munch's family 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. Christian's 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?" Munch's paintings of the following year included sketchy tavern scenes and a series of bright cityscapes in which he experimented with the pointillist style of Georges Seurat.

Going to 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".

Painted in 1893, The Scream is Munch's most famous work and one of the most recognizable paintings in all art. It has been widely interpreted as representing the universal anxiety of modern man. Painted with broad bands of garish color and highly simplified forms, and employing a high viewpoint, the agonized figure is reduced to a garbed skull in the throes of an emotional crisis. With this painting, Munch met his stated goal of "the study of the soul, that is to say the study of my own self".

 Munch wrote of how the painting came to be: "I was walking down the road with two friends when the sun set; suddenly, the sky turned as red as blood. I stopped and leaned against the fence, feeling unspeakably tired. Tongues of fire and blood stretched over the bluish black fjord. My friends went on walking, while I lagged behind, shivering with fear. Then I heard the enormous, infinite scream of nature." He later described the personal anguish behind the painting, "for several years I was almost mad… You know my picture, 'The Scream?' I was stretched to the limit—nature was screaming in my blood… After that I gave up hope ever of being able to love again."

Around the turn of the century, Munch worked to finish the Frieze of Life series". He painted a number of pictures, several of them in larger format and to some extent featuring the Art Nouveau aesthetics of the time. He made a wooden frame with carved reliefs for the large painting Metabolism (1898), initially called Adam and Eve. This work reveals Munch's preoccupation with the "fall of man" myth and his pessimistic philosophy of love. Motifs such as The Empty Cross and Golgotha (both c. 1900) reflect a metaphysical orientation, and also echo Munch's pietistic upbringing. The entire Frieze showed for the first time at the secessionist exhibition in Berlin in 1902.

In 1896, Munch moved to Paris, where he focused on graphic representations of his Frieze of Life themes. Many of the Parisian critics still considered Munch's work "violent and brutal" but his exhibitions received serious attention and good attendance. His financial situation improved considerably and in 1897, Munch 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 20 years.

Munch returned to Christiania in 1897 where he also received grudging acceptance, where one critic wrote, "A fair number of these pictures have been exhibited before. In my opinion these improve on acquaintance." In 1899, at the age of thirty-four, Munch began an intimate relationship with Tulla Larsen, a "liberated" upper-class woman. They traveled to Italy together and upon returning, Munch began another fertile period in his art, which included landscapes and his final painting in The Frieze of Life series, The Dance of Life (1899).

Larsen was eager for marriage, and Munch begged off. His drinking and poor health reinforced his fears, as he wrote in the third person, "Ever since he was a child he had hated marriage. His sick and nervous home had given him the feeling that he had no right to get married." Munch almost gave in to Tulla, but fled from her in 1900, also turning away from her considerable fortune, and moved to Berlin. His Girls on the Jetty, created in eighteen different versions, demonstrated the theme of feminine youth without negative connotations. In 1902, he displayed his works thematically at the hall of the Berlin Succession, producing "a symphonic effect—it made a great stir—a lot of antagonism—and a lot of approval." The Berlin critics were beginning to appreciate Munch's work even though the public still found his work alien and strange.

The good press coverage gained Munch the attention of influential patrons Albert Kollman and Max Linde. He described the turn of events in his diary, "After twenty years of struggle and misery forces of good finally come to

In 1903-4, Munch exhibited in Paris where the coming Fauvists, famous for their boldly false colors, likely saw his works and might have found inspiration in them. When the Fauves held their own exhibit in 1906, Munch was invited and displayed his works with theirs. After studying the sculpture of Rodin, Munch may have experimented with plasticine as an aid to design, but he produced little sculpture. During this time, Munch received many commissions for portraits and prints which improved his usually precarious financial condition. After an earlier period of landscapes, in 1907 he turned his attention again to human figures and situations.

However, in the autumn of 1908, Munch's anxiety, compounded by excessive drinking and brawling, had become acute. As he wrote later, "My condition was verging on madness—it was touch and go." Subject to hallucinations and feelings of persecution, he entered the clinic of Dr. Daniel Jacobson. The therapy Munch received for the next eight months included diet and "electrification" (a treatment then fashionable for nervous conditions, not to be confused with electro-convulsive therapy). Munch's stay in hospital stabilized his personality, and after returning to Norway in 1909, his work became more colorful and less pessimistic. His portrait of Professor Jacobson, done in 1909, is one of Munch's best. Further brightening his mood, the general public of Christiania 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, Dr. Jacobson advised Munch to only socialize with good friends and avoid public drinking. 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 color 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 vistas for his art and he was finally able to provide for his family.

When Munch died, he bequeathed his remaining works to the city of Oslo, which built the Munch Museum at Tøyen (it opened in 1963). The museum hosts a collection of approximately 1,100 paintings, 4,500 drawings, and 18,000 prints, the broadest collection of his works in the world. The Munch Museum currently serves at Munch's official Estate and has been active in responding to copyright infringements, as well as clearing copyright for the work, such as the appearance of Munch's The Scream in a 2006 M&M advertisement campaign. The U.S. copyright representative for the Munch Museum and the Estate of Edvard Munch is the Artists Rights Society.

Munch's works are now represented in numerous major museums and galleries in Norway and abroad. After the Cultural Revolution in the People's Republic of China ended, Munch was the first Western artist to have his pictures exhibited at the National Gallery in Beijing. His cabin "the Happy House" was given to the municipality of Åsgårdstrand in 1944 and is now a small Munch museum. The inventory is still exactly as he left it.

One version of The Scream was stolen from the National Gallery in 1994. In 2004 another version of The Scream along with one of Madonna were stolen from the Munch Museum in a daring daylight robbery. All were eventually recovered, but the paintings stolen in the 2004 robbery were extensively damaged. They have been meticulously restored and are on display again. Three Munch works were stolen from the Hotel Refsnes Gods in 2005; they were shortly recovered, although one of the works was damaged during the robbery.

Munch appears on the Norwegian 1,000 Kroner note along with pictures inspired by his artwork.

Edvard Munch died at age 89 in Oslo, Norway.

Source:
Excerpted from Wikipedia,
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edvard_Munch


This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Please note: Artists not classified as American in our database may have limited biographical data compared to the extensive information about American artists.

Edvard Munch was born in 1863 on a farm in Loten, Norway, the second of five children.  His father was a doctor who treated Kristiana's poor; he was a stern, devout man who moved his family to Kristiana when Edvard was a baby.  His mother died of tuberculosis when he was five.  His father became melancholy and reclusive, spending days and evenings in his own room in prayer.  Munch himself was often ill. His elder sister, Sophie, died of tuberculosis when she was fifteen and Munch was a year younger.

In 1881 he entered art school.  The canvases he painted at first were similar to the dark rich realistic ones developed in Paris by Courbet and the early Manet.  He became involved with a revolutionary social group that advocated free love and had his first sexual experience.

His earliest experiences with romance were dismal failures and as a result he never married.  His painful affair with Tulla Larsen, the spirited daughter of a prominent family, ended with a self-inflicted gun-shot wound that took off part of a finger on his left hand.  For the rest of his life intimacy was reduced to brief encounters with hotel maids and prostitutes.

He made his first visit to Paris in 1885.  The decade from 1890 to 1900 was Munch's most intense and creative period.  For three years, 1889, 1890 and 1891 he obtained scholarships to study in France, but he returned to Norway in the summers, renting a summer home at Aasgaardstand.

The sanctimonious journalists in Kristiana (renamed Oslo in 1924) would call the man and his work insane during much of Munch's life.  In 1908 he suffered a nervous breakdown, spending six to eight months in a Danish Sanatorium. Afterward, he was a changed man.  He gave up cigarettes and liquor and settled permanently in Norway.  Fame and funds had come to him by then.  He had produced a prodigious amount of work until his death in 1944 and in 1963 a museum devoted entirely to his paintings opened in Oslo.

Written and submitted by Jean Ershler Schatz, artist and researcher from Laguna Woods, California.

Sources include:
Hear the Scream by David d'Arcy in Art & Antiques Magazine, October 1995;
Article by Piri Halasz in Smithsonian Magazine (date unknown)
Article by Robert Hughes in Newsweek Magazine, November 27, 1978
The Heart's Blood by D.M.Thomas in Art & Antiques Magazine, January 1993

This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Please note: Artists not classified as American in our database may have limited biographical data compared to the extensive information about American artists.

Edvard Munch's The Scream fetches $120M at auction

The following is excerpted from (CBS/AP) NEW YORK, May 2, 2012 -

One of the world's most recognizable paintings, Norwegian artist Edvard Munch's The Scream, has sold at auction for a record $119,922,500 at Sotheby's in New York.

The painting depicts a human figure on a bridge under a red sky, shrieking in fear or despair.

Munch created four versions of it.  He created the pastel on board in 1895. He was in great pain, a love affair had just ended, and he had visited his sister in an Oslo insane asylum when he found himself at a fjord.

"He had this vision that the sky turned to blood and there was this scream though nature," explained Prideaux. "You can relate to it whether you're old, young, male, female and the extraordinary thing of the skull beneath the skin - you know we all have that skull, don't we?"
The painting has inspired countless pop-culture knock-offs from the Wes Craven movie to the Homer Simpson poster.

"Sotheby's in London presented it like a jewel - in a black velvet room," Prideaux explained. "The presence the painting had - you could just gaze at it for hours and hours."

Online Source:
http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-201_162-57426665/edvard-munchs-the-scream-fetches-$120m-at-auction/


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