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Year 8 - Expressionism: Edward Munch (1863 - 1944)

Last updated October 2018.

Key aspects of his art

Munch's nomadic and self-imposed exile's life in Europe, from his mid-twenties to mid-forties - especially in the cosmopolitan, creatively fertile centers of Paris and Berlin - was undoubtedly vital to the shape of his art. It established the necessary detachment from the 'untroubled communal myths' of his homeland and the troubled passage of his young manhood.

On the one hand he was freed from the constraints of his past, and the real and perceived limitations of provincial life. On the other hand he was closely associated with the largely Nordic avant-garde writers and artists of his day who shared and promoted his belief in the necessity of using private, subjective experience to create 'universal' statements and imagery.

Edward Munch - Symbolism

(the lonely one)

Munch was also an experimental printmaker of astonishing daring and virtuosity. Far from being secondary to his paintings, Munch’s graphic works are among his most forceful images. 

This exhibition, drawn from the collection of The Museum of Modern Art, examines the major themes in Munch’s art as expressed in graphic media, principally lithographs and woodcuts.

Click image to view more images in higher resolution.

Munch at Tate Museum

Munch’s use of prominent foregrounds and strong diagonals reference the technological developments in cinema and photography at the time. Creating the illusion of figures moving towards the spectator, this visual trick can be seen in many of Munch’s most innovative works such as Workers on their Way Home1913–14. He was also keenly aware of the visual effects brought on by the introduction of electric lighting on theatre stages and used this to create striking effect in works such as The Artist and his Model 1919–21. In this video the curator explains some of Munch's work

Early life

Nature is not only all that is visible to the eye... it also includes the inner pictures of the soul.”

- Edvard Munch


Munch was born on Dec. 12, 1863, in Loten, Norway. He grew up in Christiania (now Oslo) and studied art under Christian Krohg, a Norwegian naturalistic painter. Munch's parents, a brother, and a sister died while he was still young, which probably explains the bleakness and pessimism of much of his work. Paintings such as The Sick Child (1886), Vampire (1893-94), and Ashes(1894) show his preoccupation with the darker aspects of life. 


The Scream by Edward Munch analysed

Starry Night - Edward Munch

Munch's setting for many of the Frieze paintings is the beach at Aasgaardstrand in the Oslo Fjord, where he had spent his summers since the late 1880s. He came to love the shore with its stony beaches that separated the sea from the forest, and it is this particular scenery that we come upon repeatedly in such work as Starry Night. One of its most prominent motifs is the hugely bulking shape of three linden trees whose crowns have merged to form a single outline. Read the full description HERE

Edvard Munch - His work

Formed by the traumatic events of his childhood - the death of his mother from tuberculosis when he was aged five, his own debilitating illnesses and his beloved older sister's death (also from tuberculosis) when he was thirteen and she barely fifteen. 

Munch early on rebelled against the dogmatic, fervent religious beliefs of his father and the repressive mores of the bourgeois society which dominated the Kristiania (Oslo) of his youth. As a young art student he associated with the rebellious, 'Bohemian' artists and writers of Kristiania and was quick to respond to the intellectual and aesthetic revolutions brewing around him. Read more about Munch HERE.

The following article link talks in detail about the influences on Munch's art.


Webpages on Edward Munch

click above image to view a gallery of Edward Munch's works