Edvard Munch – Expressionist Artist (1863-1944)

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Edvard munch was a Norwegian painter who was known for his symbolism and expressionism in his paintings. He influenced the art-word in his life time mainly Germany. The most famous work he produced is the expressionist painting The Scream.

Edvard Munch Munch was born to Laura Bjolstad and Christian Munch. Initially, Munch studied in a technical college getting good marks in physics, chemistry and math. Here he learned the scaled and perspective drawing. But, as the painting was his inner passion, he left the college for painting. His father didn’t appreciate it. He thought painting is an unholy trade. Though, going against every one’s wish he commenced to pursue his dream to become a painter by enrolling at Royal School of Art and Design of Christiana.

At the academy, he worked mainly on the portraits in the beginning. In his first attempts he drew his father’s and his own portraits which were somewhat appraised. Though, the first exhibition in the academy held shared with other students was his first encounter with the real critics.

He presented his full length portrait of Karl Jensen-Hjell, a notorious of the town gained a negative criticism. Critics claimed that in his painting the impressionism was carried to its extreme and was a wrong depiction of art.

But, that was just a start of the disapproval Munch faced for his various paintings. The main reason of the refusal by the society and critics was the depressing and sometimes dark depictions of the subjects or the nature. Munch always tried to capture the most essential part of the scenery and tried to depict them. But in this process a bit realism was lost and critics would reject his paintings saying they are full of extremeness.

But, he didn’t try to change his paintings. Actually, in the beginning of his career he was trying to figure out what was his style of painting by trying different methods and styles. But, his nihilist friend Hans Jaeger (whose friendship was also disapproved by Munch father) suggested him to “write his life” meaning Munch should explore his own emotional and psychological state. Thus, the period of self-exploration and self-examination began in his life. He wrote about it in his diary called “Soul’s Diary”.

The Sick child (shown below) became his first paintings reflecting his own feelings about his sister Inger’s death. He proclaimed that painting as his first “soul painting” and his first break from impressionism (he didn’t find impressionism giving enough freedom to his art). That painting was also disapproved by the critics and even from his family.

The Sick Child by Edvard Munch

Ignoring the criticism, he arrived at Paris for festival of Exposition Universelle in 1889. He visited Bonnat’s Studio. Moreover, the works of the three artists Paul Gauguin, Vincent Van Gogh and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec’s made a good influence on his mind by their use of colors. But, later due to his father’s death Munch had to return to home and he took care of his family becoming the bread earner of the house.

His visit to Berlin in 1892 stirred the controversy called the “The Munch Affair”. His painting Melancholy’ was exhibited in November exhibition at the union of Berlin artists. Due to controversy, the exhibition was closed after one week. Although, Munch enjoyed that time and wrote about it in a letter “Never have I had such an amusing time—it’s incredible that something as innocent as painting should have created such a stir.”

After many paintings and drawings he learned to let out his inner emotions in his paintings. His every painting became more and more of his style. And the pinnacle was achieved by his most renowned painting The Scream!

The Scream by Edvard Munch

The Scream

He said for the paintings that the goal of studying his soul was accomplished by this painting. There were four versions of the painting, in which one was sold for around $ 119 million! The inspiration of the painting he got was from an evening.

                “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.”

Contrary to his other works, this painting got the most applauds from the public and critics. Martha Tedeschi even compared it with the great paintings like Mona Lisa and Whistler’ Mother:

“Whistler’s Mother, Wood’s American Gothic, Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa and Edvard Munch’s The Scream have all achieved something that most paintings—regardless of their art historical importance, beauty, or monetary value—have not: they communicate a specific meaning almost immediately to almost every viewer. These few works have successfully made the transition from the elite realm of the museum visitor to the enormous venue of popular culture.”

The less known part of his life the part of his mental breakdown. “My condition was verging on madness—it was touch and go.” Due to his illness, he had to admit in Dr Daniel Jacobson’s Hospital. After eight month’s therapy, when he came out of the hospital, his mental condition changed amazingly, affecting not only his personality but also his paintings, making them more colorful and less pessimistic.

End of every artist closes a portion of world which could be decorated only by that particular artist. Edvard Munch death occurred in 1944. But behind him he left his legacy. There is also a movie, based on his life.

After his fame his other paintings also sold for high-prices- Two People the Lonely ($ 1.27 million), Vampire ($ 38.162 million – shown on right).

There is a Museum dedicated to him called Munch Museum (the infamous theft of The Scream happened here). The museum contains more than 20,000 artworks by Munch, becoming the largest collection of the artist.

Norwegian government has given him tribute by producing a 1000 kroner note depicting him and his artworks. And recently on his 150th birth-anniversary, there was a series of stamps which framed the Munch’s four paintings.

Munch wrote the goal of his painting in his diary:

“In my art I attempt to explain life and its meaning to myself.”

I am not stating anything anymore; it’s up to you to decide if he achieved his goal.

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