Self-portrait with Brushes is Munch’s first full-length self portrait. It is one of three paintings where he depicts himself with painting tools, and may be regarded as an expression of his view of his role as an artist.
Munch has dated the painting to 1905, but it was probably painted in December 1904.
In 1904 Munch stayed with his friend and patron, the optician Dr. Max Linde in Lübeck. In this period Munch supported himself by painting portraits, and it is in this role he has portrayed himself in Self-portrait with Brushes.
The picture has points of similarity with a full-length portrait that he painted of Max Linde in the spring of 1904, where the pose and the use of the space and colours are very similar.
In Self-portrait with Brushes he may be said to be reflecting his role as “court artist”, i.e. portraitist. Munch is shown dressed in a dark working coat, his face turned towards the viewer – confident in his own abilities, full of strength and vitality.
Munch’s body constitutes a centre line in front of an abstract background painted with short, rapid brushstrokes.
The hands which hold the artists’ brushes are to more-or-less at the centre of the painting. The red colour of the brushes placed in front of the heart, form an optical focus that may be said to revive the theme of “Art that is created by the artist’s life-blood”.