Edvard Munch

Edvard Munch’s psychological state reflects heavily in his long lifetime of creative work. His abstract and unsettling painting, The Scream, is one of the most iconic images of world art.

About the artist: Edvard Munch (1863 – 1944) was a Norwegian painter, whose best known work, The Scream, has become one of the most iconic paintings around the world. His childhood was overshadowed by illness, bereavement and the dread of inheriting a mental condition that ran in the family. Studying at the Royal School of Art and Design in Kristiania (today’s Oslo), Munch lived under the negative influence of the nihilist Hans Jæger. However, Jæger did inspire Munch to paint his own emotional and psychological state (‘soul painting’). From this, his distinctive style emerged.

Travel brought new influences and new outlets. In Paris, he learned much from Paul Gauguin, Vincent van Gogh and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, especially their use of colour. But it was back in Kristiania that his legendary work The Scream was conceived. According to Munch, he was out walking at sunset, when he ‘heard the enormous, infinite scream of nature’. The agonised face in the painting is widely identified with the angst of modern man. Between 1893 and 1910, he made two painted versions and two in pastels, as well as a number of prints.

Munch’s wealth and popularity continued to grow, yet his emotional state remained as insecure as ever. In 1908 he suffered a complete mental breakdown, but was encouraged by critical acclaim in Kristiania and exposure in the city’s museums. His later years were spent working in solitude. Although his works were banned in Nazi Germany, most of them survived World War II, ensuring him a legacy.