Edvard Munch – An Expressionist Experience of the Art World

Born on December 12, 1863 in Loieten, Edvard Munch was a Norwegian painter and a graphic artist. His family moved to Oslo (Kristiania) in 1864 and it was here that Edvard Munch started his art training. His father, Christian Munch was a military doctor and an ardent follower of Christianity.

Edvard Munch (not Edward Munch) enrolled in Technical College for an engineering degree in 1879; However, his recurrent illness prevented him from completing his degree. A year later, in his endeavor to become an artist, he joined the Royal School of Art and Design, Kristiania (now Oslo). His art and thoughts were greatly influenced by the writer Hans Jaeger, who was the leader of the controversial group, called 'Christiania's Bohemia.' Jaeger was a believer of free love and of a non-materialistic society.

Beginning with Impressionism and Naturalism, Munch graduated to a Symbolist and Expressionist art form. His early and one of the most popular paintings, 'Sick Child' (1886) and 'The Scream' (1893), illustrate his childhood ordeal of losing his mother in 1868 and sister in 1877 to tuberculosis at a young age. The 'Sick Child' used a popular theme amongst the Norwegian pragmatist artists, served as a tribute to his sister. Munch's paintings used the artistic expressions in a manner, which allowed audiences to interpret the content in their own way.

In 1889, Edvard joined the Bonnat School of Arts in Paris and held an exhibition of over a hundred works at the Student Organization in Christiania. After his father's death in 1889, Munch took up to heavy drinking and moved back to Norway. Berlin Artists' Association invited him in 1892 to exhibit his paintings. However, Munch found his paintings in the midst of a controversy, commonly referred as "The Munch Affair," forcing the exhibition to shut down in a week's time. He used this publicity to his advantage by organizing other exhibitions and selling his paintings in other towns.

The following year, Edvard Munch joined the international circle of writers, critics, and artists including Ola Hannson, Richard Dehmal, Holger Drachmann, Gunnar Heiberg, and August Strinberg. He painted a series of painting depicting love, anxiety, and death, which were coined as 'Frieze of Life.' To ensure that his painting got a large audience, he started making prints, the designs of which were mostly taken from Frieze. 'The Scream,' perhaps his most popular work to date, has been inferred to represent the angst of modern man.

He maintained that, "in my art I attempt to explain life and its meaning to myself." After having suffered a nervous breakdown in 1908, requiring electrical shock and the months of recovery time, he became a teetotaler and rational. However, he had lost his edge but continued painting. Also to his credit, he composed a prose poem titled 'Alpha and Omega' (1909), through lithograph illustrations. By the time he died at the age of 81 on January 23, 1944, he left behind thousands of paintings and prints for the world to cherish.

Source by Annette Labedzki