Edvard Munch

Dates1863 - 1944
BornLøten, Norway
DiedOslo, Norway

Like many artists who came of age in the wake of Impressionism, Edvard Munch began his career painting closely observed scenes of the world around him. But Munch's work took on an ever-deepening emphasis on subjectivity and an active rejection of visible reality. The unique and highly personal style he developed to convey mood, emotion, or memory would greatly influence the course of twentieth-century art and in particular, the development of Expressionism.

The second of five children, Munch lost both his mother and favorite sister to tuberculosis before his fourteenth birthday. Having abandoned the study of engineering due to frequent illness, Munch decided to become an artist. His early work revealed the influence of plein-air painters like Monet and Renoir. In 1889, Munch began to spend long periods in Paris. Exposed to the work of Gauguin and other French Symbolists--both painters and writers--Munch developed a simplified language of bold color and sinuous line to express his view of human suffering. He grappled with dark, unsettling themes like sickness and death, depression and alienation.

In the 1890s Munch dedicated himself to an ambitious multi-canvas series called The Frieze of Life. Though the series was never completed, the twenty-two canvases Munch did produce extended his obsessive exploration of sexuality and mortality. The Frieze of Life included Munch's iconic image of modern angst, The Scream; as with many of his paintings, he created several versions of it. Following a nervous breakdown in 1908 and subsequent rehabilitation, Munch largely turned away from images of private despair and anguish and created more colorful, optimistic paintings.