Edvard Munch (2 December 1863 – 23 January 1944)
was a Norwegian painter and printmaker whose intensely evocative treatment of
psychological themes built upon some of the main tenets of late 19th-century
Symbolism and greatly influenced German Expressionism in the early 20th
century. One of his most well-known works is The Scream (The Cry) of
Born in 1863 in Löten, Norway, famed painter Edvard Munch established a
free-flowing, psychological-themed style all his own. His painting "The Scream"
("The Cry"; 1893), is one of the most recognizable works in the history of art. His
later works proved to be less intense, but his earlier, darker paintings ensured
his legacy. A testament to his importance, "The Scream" sold for more than $119
million in 2012 - setting a new record.
Early Life and Education
Edvard Munch was born on December 12, 1863, in Löten, Norway, the second of five
children. In 1864, Munch moved with his family to the city of Oslo, where his
mother died four years later of tuberculosis - he beginning of a series of familial
tragedies in Munch's life: His sister, Sophie, also died of tuberculosis, in 1877
at the age of 15; another of his sisters spent most of her life institutionalized
for mental illness; and his only brother died of pneumonia at age 30.
In 1879, Munch began attending a technical college to study engineering, but
left only a year later when his passion for art overtook his interest in
engineering. In 1881, he enrolled at the Royal School of Art and Design. The
following year, he rented a studio with six other artists and entered his first
show, at the Industries and Art Exhibition.
Three years of study and practice later, Munch received a scholarship and
traveled to Paris, France, where he spent three weeks. After returning to Oslo, he
began working on new paintings, one of which was "The Sick Child," which he would
finish in 1886. In what would be seen as the first work to represent Munch’s break
from the realist style, the painting symbolically captures intense emotion on the
canvas - specifically depicting his feelings about the death of his sister nearly
nine years earlier.
From 1889 (the year his father died) to 1892, Munch lived mainly in France -
funded by state scholarships - embarking on the most productive, as well as the
most troubled, period of his artistic life. It during this period that Munch
undertook a series of paintings he called the "Frieze of Life," ultimately
encompassing 22 works for a 1902 Berlin exhibition. With paintings bearing such
titles as "Despair" (1892), "Melancholy" (c. 1892–93), "Anxiety" (1894), "Jealousy"
(1894–95) and "The Scream" (also known as "The Cry") - the last of which, painted
in 1893, would go on to become one of the most famous paintings ever produced -
Munch’s mental state was on full display, and his style varied greatly, depending
on which emotion had taken hold of him at the time. The collection was a huge
success, and Munch soon became known to the art world. Subsequently, he found brief
happiness in a life otherwise colored by excessive drinking, family misfortune and
Later Years and Legacy
Success wasn't enough to tame Munch's inner demons for long, however, and as the
1900s began, his drinking spun out of control. In 1908, hearing voices and
suffering from paralysis on one side, he collapsed and soon checked himself into a
private sanitarium, where he drank less and regained some mental composure. In the
spring of 1909, he checked out, eager to get back to work, but as history would
show, most of his great works were behind him.
Munch moved to a country house in Ekely (near Oslo), Norway, where he lived in
isolation and began painting landscapes. He nearly died of influenza in the
pandemic of 1918-19, but recovered and would survive for more than two decades
thereafter (he died at his country home in Ekley on January 23, 1944). Munch
painted right up to his death, often depicting his deteriorating condition and
various physical maladies in his work.
In May 2012, Munch's "The Scream" went on the auction block, selling at
Sotheby's in New York for more than $119 million - a record-breaking price -
sealing its reputation as one of the most famous and important works of art ever