Edvard Munch

Edvard Munch

Munch was born in Norway on 12th December 1863 and died on 23rd January 1944. He was a painter and printmaker. His work is intensely emotional and exposes deep psychological disturbances and as such greatly influenced the developing school of German Expressionism and built upon the foundations of late 19th century Symbolism.

Munch suffered much anguish during his childhood, and themes arising from this re-surface time and again throughout his work. He was the second of five children, and the elder son. His early childhood was overshadowed by the fear of death from tuberculosis, the illness which killed his mother, at the age of thirty, soon after the birth of her fifth child, and then his elder sister.

After Edvard’s mother’s death, his father becames fanatically religious, and instilled the fear of God into his children. His behaviour was erratic and his moods were unpredictable, and the more so after Edvard’s elder sister died. Edvard’s guilt over his survival in the face of his sister’s death continued to disturb him at intervals throughout his life, and provoked the series of paintings The Sick Child 1885 – 1927. There are other examples of works where a singl motif stimulated a series of paintings such as Girls on a Bridge 1902 – 7.

Munch is probaly best known for the painting The Scream 1883, which depicts a stylised, anonymous figure experiencing horrific emotion, to the point that his/her identity is distorted. Fear and threat are frequently encountered in Munch’s art, and he distorts perspective and brings his primary subjects close to the foreground and often cuts them off, in order to portray this.

Whilst he is often considered to be a Symbolist painter, the exhibition at Tate Modern Edvard Munch: the Modern Eye (2012) revealed that he was influenced by modern developments of the time in cinemtography and photography, in which images are brought close to the observer, to give the impression of the subject moving towards the observer. This is seen in The Galloping Horse 1910 – 1912


Ingles, Elizabeth. (2005) Edvard Munch: Love, Jealousy, Death and Sorrow. London: Grange Books

Tate Modern (2012) Edvard Munch: The Modern Eye. London Tate Modern At: http://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-modern/exhibition/edvard-munch-modern-eye (Accessed 5/09/2015)

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