Edvard Munch

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Munch, Edvard

Munch, Edvard (ĕdˈvärt mo͝ongk), 1863–1944, Norwegian painter and graphic artist. He studied in Oslo and under Bonnat in Paris, traveled in Europe, and lived in Berlin from 1892 to 1908. 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 sanity), Munch transformed his 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, often using color and the grain of the wood as expressive elements; these helped revive creative activity in the medium.

Among Munch's strongest and best-known works are The Scream (1893) and a calmer version of the same subject executed in pastels (1895), 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, as in his his haunting self-portrait, The Night Wanderer (1923–24). 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, particularly the Munch Museum and the National Museum, both in Oslo.


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), K. McShine, ed. (2006), and J. Lloyd, ed. (2016).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Munch, Edvard


Born Dec. 12, 1863, in Löten; died Jan. 23, 1944, in Ekely, near Oslo. Norwegian painter and graphic artist.

Munch studied in Christiania at the Royal School of Art and Handicraft from 1881 to 1886 and at the studio of C. Krohg in 1882 and 1883. From the late 1880’s to 1908 he lived on the European continent. In France he was influenced by postimpressionism. He spent a great deal of time in Germany; he also lived for some time in Italy. Munch’s philosophy developed under the influence of H. H. Jaeger and such symbolist writers as J. A. Strindberg, as a result of which the artist became fascinated with the themes of slowly ebbing life, death, solitude, anxiety, and perverse eroticism.

Beginning in the 1890’s, Munch’s works showed the influence of art nouveau (The Artist’s Sister, 1892; The Dying Man’s Room, 1893). At the same time, a number of new devices that intensified the tragic impact of images and in many ways anticipated expressionism were revealed. These devices included the use of bold vortex-forming lines, intensely dynamic composition, and a dissonant palette (The Scream, 1893; The Dance of Life, 1899; Girls on the Bridge, c. 1901—all three works in the National Gallery, Oslo).

Most of Munch’s works of the 1890’s and the first decade of the 20th century are part of the symbolic cycle Frieze of Life,which the artist never completed. The artist also painted decorative murals (the wall painting in the auditorium of the University of Oslo, 1910—16) and produced a great many expressive portraits of his contemporaries. Munch also did a number of engravings, etchings, and lithographs.


Stenersen, R. Edvard Munk. Epilogue by I. Ia. Tsagarelli. Moscow, 1972. (Translated from Norwegian.)
Benesch, O. E. Munch. Cologne, 1960.
Munchmuseet: Katalog. Oslo, 1963. Stang, N. Edvard Munch. Oslo [1971].
E. Munch (album). Text by T. M. Messer. New York, [1973].


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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