7 Things You May Not Know About Edvard Munch

Between bouts of nihilism, this Nordic artist lived an unusual life

By Google Arts & Culture

Eifersucht (1896) by Edvard MunchTel Aviv Museum of Art

1. He had an unhappy childhood

Munch's early life was overshadowed by illness, bereavement, and the dread of inheriting an unknown mental condition that ran in the family. He later wrote that his father was, "obsessively religious - to the point of psychoneurosis. From him I inherited the seeds of madness."

The Sick Child I (1896) by Edvard MunchThe Munch Museum, Oslo

2. His early works are lost

When he started making art, his father denounced the practice as an 'unholy trade' and Munch's neighbours sent him hate mail. When the press began to criticise his early work, his father destroyed at least one painting, thought to be a male nude portrait.

3. He was a friend of the Impressionists

Munch visited Paris, then the centre of the art world, during the the Exposition Universelle of 1889. There he befriended Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and saw the recently completed Eiffel Tower, as well as the post-impressionist works of Paul Gauguin and Vincent van Gogh.

The Scream (1910) by Edvard MunchThe Munch Museum, Oslo

4. The Scream marked a turning point

Known around the world - Munch later reflected on the circumstances of this work. "for several years I was almost mad… You know my picture, The Scream? I was stretched to the limit—nature was screaming in my blood… After that I gave up hope ever of being able to love again."

5. He was a country man at heart

He eventually came to hate the city and crave solitude. In 1897 he bought a small fisherman's cottage at Åsgårdstrand and named it the 'Happy House'. "To walk in Åsgårdstrand is like walking among my paintings—I get so inspired to paint when I am here".

Self-Portrait in Hell (1903) by Edvard MunchThe Munch Museum, Oslo

6. He suffered a breakdown

In the autumn of 1908, Munch was anxious, hallucinating, drinking heavily, and fighting in the street. He later wrote, "My condition was verging on madness—it was touch and go." He began therapy under Daniel Jacobson, and his art became brighter and more optimistic.

Edvard Munch at the Beach in Warnemünde (1907) by Edvard MunchThe Munch Museum, Oslo

7. He criticised photography...

Munch was an early critic of photography as an art form. He thought it was too mechanical and earth-bound, famously saying that it "will never compete with the brush and the palette, until such time as photographs can be taken in Heaven or Hell!"

Self-Portrait “à la Marat” (1908/1909) by Edvard MunchThe Munch Museum, Oslo

… but he enjoyed taking photographs

Despite all his criticism, he seems to have used photography to help him compose studies for paintings, as well as making many nude self portraits and experimenting with double exposures.

Munch Museum, Oslo

While you're here, why not take a tour of the Munch Museum in Oslo, Norway. Which holds the largest collection in the world of art by Edvard Munch - approximately 1100 paintings, 4500 drawings and 18000 prints.

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The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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