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Edvard Munch

1863-1944

 

Edvard Munch was born on December 12th, 1863, in Lten, Norway, the son of Christian Munch, a military doctor.  He spent most of his childhood living in Kristiania, which is now better known as Oslo, the Norwegian capital.  Edvard Munch's mother, his brother, and one of his sisters died of tuberculosis while he was still young, and Edvard was himself a sickly child.  At the age of 17 was tutored in the arts by Christian Krohg, a naturalist painter, who was quite famous in Norway.  Edvard's talent was evident by his early realist paintings, but the traumatic events that plagued Edvard's youth had an even deeper impact on his artistic vision than any other artist or artistic movement could have.  

In 1885, Munch received a grant to study for three weeks in Paris.  A year later, he  began working on "The Sick Child", which would be his first truly personal piece.  Here was Munch exploring the darkness of his youth, in a painting based on memories of his favorite sister Sophie's affliction with tuberculosis.  Munch eschewed the naturalistic approach of Krogh, and incorporated expressionist tendencies in his work.   Death, illness and mental anguish were themes that would from then on continue to figure prominently in his paintings.  Although "The Sick Child" wasn't initially appreciated by critics, it remains one of his most important works, along with "The Day After" and "Puberty", two other paintings from the same period. Munch had spent considerable time discussing philosophical matters with Norway's Kristiania bohemians leader Hans Jaeger, and it was at that point that he had decided the impressions of his soul, and not his eyes, were what he wanted to commit to canvas. 

In 1889, at the age of 26, Edvard Munch put on his first retrospective exhibit at The Norwegian Students' Association in Kristiania. The show is a success, no doubt due to the fact that he chooses to present his lighter, less anguished creations, and he is awarded a travel grant which will allow him to return to Paris for the next three years, in order to further his studies.   Munch's father dies, and he returns to Paris to study, this time with Lon Bonnat, but Munch gains far more artistic direction from his interest in the works of the post-impressionists.   His following show, this time in at the Artists' Association in Berlin.  The show was both successful, and a disaster, as critics denounced his work as that of an anarchist, and closed the exhibit.  Nonetheless, Munch becomes a household name in Germany.  Munch lived and worked in Berlin and Paris for many years, and his works were included in several exhibits.  

In 1891, Munch begins working on sketches for The Scream, his most famous piece, and descriptive self-portrait. There were several versions of this work created by munch, from black and white illustrations to several paintings, using several different techniques.  In 1893, he presents some of the paintings from his Frieze of Life series in an exhibit on Unter den Linden, again, darkness is ever present in his work, which is charged with atmosphere and anguished love.  The next year, he continues working on the series, and works such as the Madonna and  Ashes are born.   In 1896, Munch begins experimenting with lithographs, and woodcuts, which he produces in collaboration with printer Auguste Clot.  

In the early 1900s, Munch continued painting Frieze of Life images, but he felt it was time for him to move on to other things.  In 1902, plagued by sadness over an ill-fated romance and the cumulative traumas of his life, not to mention a growing battle with alcoholism, Munch tries to commit suicide, but fails, wounding his hand instead.  Munch exorcizes his demons by making several paintings which feature representations of his love lost, and even creates works based on less introverted themes such as Bathing Men, but Munch's tormented psyche takes over once more, and in 1908, he is admitted to a psychiatric hospital where he spends several months recovering from a nervous breakdown.

In 1909, Munch returns to Norway where he is commissioned to create murals for the Aula of the University of Kristiania.  Even there, the nature of his work causes quite a stir, and it is only after much debate and controversy that the murals are put up in the Aula.  While he remains in Norway, his works are sought by many galleries world-wide, and in 1912,  he is even given a permanent gallery at the  Sonderbund Internationale Ausstellung in Cologne.  In 1916, Munch purchases the Ekely estate, just outside of Kristiania, where he will remain for the rest of his life. 

Continued on the next page...

 

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