Edvard Munch facts for kids

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Edvard Munch 1921
Edvard Munch in 1921
Edvard Munch - The dance of life (1899-1900)
The Dance of Life, Munch 1899/1900

Edvard Munch (12 December 1863 – 23 January 1944) was a Norwegian painter and print-maker. He was born in Adalsbruk. He was an expressionist. He is well known for his treatment of emotion such as fear. His way of seeing things had a large influence on the expressionism of the 20th century. People saw this treatment as being intense.

Edvard Munch was an expressionist who painted quite a few famous paintings. He was born on the 12th of December 1863. Munch, a Norwegian, had four brothers and sisters. He had followed his mother and sister by being the best artists in their family. While Edvard was still young, his mother and one of his sisters died. But it was when he was thirteen that he really came to like art. The first paintings he did were simple objects like medicine bottles and other objects. Later on, he drew oil paintings.

He soon went to technical college in 1879 where he learnt how to draw paintings with perspective. However in 1880, the following year he left the school to become a painter. He went to the Royal School of Art and Design. This is where he learnt sculpturing and naturalistic painting. This is where he drew his first important portrait of himself and his father.

Munch was ill very often. Many scientists think that he suffered from bipolar disorder (manic depression). He died at his house in Oslo.

Famous paintings

The Scream (1893; originally called Despair). This is Munch's best-known painting, and is one of the best known images in the world. It is one of the pieces in a series titled The Frieze of Life. In the series Munch explored the themes of life, love, fear, death and melancholy. As with many of his works, he made several versions of the painting. One version was stolen from the Munch-museum in Oslo, Norway, on 22 August 2004, but on 31 August 2006 Norwegian police found it together with another picture that was stolen at the same time, Madonna.

The Frieze of Life themes come back throughout Munch's work. These themes can be seen in paintings such as The Sick Child (1886, portrait of his deceased sister Sophie), (1893–1894), Ashes (1894), and The Bridge. The last-named shows limp figures. Those figures have faces with no features, or they have no faces at all. Threatening shapes of heavy trees and houses are above the figures. Munch portrayed women either as frail, innocent sufferers or as lurid, life-devouring vampires.

Biography

Childhood

Edvard Munch was born in a rustic farmhouse in the village of Ådalsbruk in Løten, Norway to Christian Munch, the son of a priest. Christian was a doctor and medical officer who married Laura Catherine Bjølstad, a woman half his age, in 1861. Edvard had an older sister, Johanne Sophie (born 1862), and three younger siblings: Peter Andreas (born 1865), Laura Catherine (born 1867), and Inger Marie (born 1868). Both Sophie and Edvard appear to have inherited their artistic talent from their mother. Edvard Munch was related to painter Jacob Munch (1776–1839) and historian Peter Andreas Munch (1810–1863).

The family moved to Christiania (now Oslo) in 1864 when Christian Munch was appointed medical officer at Akershus Fortress. Edvard’s mother died of tuberculosis in 1868, as did Munch's favorite sister Johanne Sophie in 1877. After their mother's death, the Munch siblings were raised by their father and by their aunt Karen. Often ill for much of the winters and kept out of school, Edvard would draw to keep himself occupied, and received tutoring from his school mates and his aunt. Christian Munch also instructed his son in history and literature, and entertained the children with vivid ghost-stories and tales of Edgar Allan Poe.

Christian Munch’s military pay was very low, and his attempts at developing a private side practice failed, keeping his family in perennial poverty. They moved frequently from one sordid flat to another. Munch’s early drawings and watercolors depicted these interiors, and the individual objects such as medicine bottles and drawing implements, plus some landscapes. By his teens, art dominated Munch’s interests. At thirteen, Munch had his first exposure to other artists at the newly formed Art Association, where he admired the work of the Norwegian landscape school. He returned to copy the paintings, and soon he began to paint in oils.

Studies and influences

Edvard Munch - Self-Portrait (1895) G0192-59 - Google Art Project
Self-Portrait. 1895. 458 × 314 mm. Munch Museum, Oslo
Aase and Harald Nørregaard
Harald Nørregaard (painted by Munch in 1899, National Gallery) was one of Munch's closest friends since adolescence

In 1879, Munch enrolled in a technical college to study engineering, where he excelled in physics, chemistry, and math. He learned scaled and perspective drawing, but frequent illnesses interrupted his studies. The following year, much to his father’s disappointment, Munch left the college determined to become a painter. His father viewed art as an “unholy trade”, and his neighbors reacted bitterly and sent him anonymous letters. In contrast to his father’s rabid pietism, Munch adopted an undogmatic stance toward art, writing in his diary his simple goal: “in my art I attempt to explain life and its meaning to myself.”

In 1881, Munch enrolled at the Royal School of Art and Design of Christiania, one of whose founders was his distant relative Jacob Munch. His teachers were sculptor Julius Middelthun and naturalistic painter Christian Krohg. That year Munch demonstrated his quick absorption of his figure training at the Academy in his first portraits, including one of his father and his first self-portrait. In 1883, Munch took part in his first public exhibition and shared a studio with other students. His full-length portrait of Karl Jensen-Hjell, a notorious bohemian-about-town, earned a critic’s dismissive response: “It is impressionism carried to the extreme. It is a travesty of art.” Munch’s nude paintings from this period survive only in sketches, except for Standing Nude (1887), perhaps confiscated by his father.

During these early years in his career, Munch experimented with many styles, including Naturalism and Impressionism. Some early works are reminiscent of Manet. Many of these attempts brought him unfavorable criticism from the press and garnered him constant rebukes by his father, who nonetheless provided him with small sums for living expenses. At one point, however, Munch’s father, perhaps swayed by the negative opinion of Munch's cousin Edvard Diriks (an established, traditional painter), destroyed at least one painting and refused to advance any more money for art supplies.

After numerous experiments, Munch concluded that the Impressionist idiom did not allow sufficient expression. He wrote that his painting The Sick Child (1886), based on his sister’s death, was his first “soul painting”, his first break from Impressionism. The painting received a negative response from critics and from his family.

Munch continued to employ a variety of brushstroke technique and color palettes throughout the 1880s and early 1890s as he struggled to define his style. His idiom continued to veer between naturalistic, as seen in Portrait of Hans Jæger, and impressionistic, as in Rue Lafayette. His Inger On the Beach (1889), which caused another storm of confusion and controversy, hints at the simplified forms, heavy outlines, sharp contrasts, and emotional content of his mature style to come. He began to carefully calculate his compositions to create tension and emotion. While stylistically influenced by the Post-Impressionists, what evolved was a subject matter which was symbolist in content, depicting a state of mind rather than an external reality. In 1889, Munch presented his first one-man show of nearly all his works to date. The recognition it received led to a two-year state scholarship to study in Paris under French painter Léon Bonnat.

Paris

Munch arrived in Paris during the festivities of the Exposition Universelle (1889) and roomed with two fellow Norwegian artists. His picture Morning (1884) was displayed at the Norwegian pavilion. He spent his mornings at Bonnat’s busy studio (which included live female models) and afternoons at the exhibition, galleries, and museums (where students were to make copies). Munch recorded little enthusiasm for Bonnat’s drawing lessons—“It tires and bores me—it’s numbing’’—but enjoyed the master’s commentary during museum trips.

Munch was enthralled by the vast display of modern European art, including the works of three artists who would prove influential: Paul Gauguin, Vincent van Gogh, and Henri Toulouse-Lautrec—all notable for how they used color to convey emotion. Munch was particularly inspired by Gauguin’s “reaction against realism” and his credo that “art was human work and not an imitation of Nature”, a belief earlier stated by Whistler. As one of his Berlin friends stated later about Munch, “he need not make his way to Tahiti to see and experience the primitive in human nature. He carries his own Tahiti within him.”

That December, his father died, leaving Munch’s family destitute.

The Scream

The Scream
The Scream (1893)

Painted in 1893, The Scream is Munch's most famous work and one of the most recognizable paintings in all art. It has been widely interpreted as representing the universal anxiety of modern man. Painted with broad bands of garish color and highly simplified forms, and employing a high viewpoint, the agonized figure is reduced to a garbed skull in the throes of an emotional crisis. With this painting, Munch met his stated goal of “the study of the soul, that is to say the study of my own self”. Munch wrote of how the painting came to be: "I was walking down the road with two friends when the sun set; suddenly, the sky turned as red as blood. I stopped and leaned against the fence, feeling unspeakably tired. Tongues of fire and blood stretched over the bluish black fjord. My friends went on walking, while I lagged behind, shivering with fear. Then I heard the enormous, infinite scream of nature." He later described the personal anguish behind the painting, “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.”

In summing up the painting’s impact author Martha Tedeschi has stated:" Whistler's Mother, Wood's American Gothic, Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa and Edvard Munch's The Scream have all achieved something that most paintings—regardless of their art historical importance, beauty, or monetary value—have not: they communicate a specific meaning almost immediately to almost every viewer. These few works have successfully made the transition from the elite realm of the museum visitor to the enormous venue of popular culture."

Paris and Christiania

Edvard Munch - The sick child (1907) - Tate Modern
The Sick Child (1907)

In 1896, Munch moved to Paris, where he focused on graphic representations of his “Frieze of Life” themes. He further developed his woodcut and lithographic technique. Munch’s Self-Portrait With Skeleton Arm (1895) is done with an etching needle-and-ink method also used by Paul Klee. Munch also produced multi-colored versions of “The Sick Child” which sold well, as well as several nudes and multiple versions of Kiss (1892) Many of the Parisian critics still considered Munch’s work “violent and brutal” but his exhibitions received serious attention and good attendance. His financial situation improved considerably and in 1897, Munch bought himself a summer house, a small fisherman’s cabin built in the late 18th century, in the small town of Åsgårdstrand in Norway. He dubbed this home the "Happy House" and returned here almost every summer for the next 20 years.

In 1903-4, Munch exhibited in Paris where the coming Fauvists, famous for their boldly false colors, likely saw his works and might have found inspiration in them. When the Fauves held their own exhibit in 1906, Munch was invited and displayed his works with theirs. After studying the sculpture of Rodin, Munch may have experimented with plasticine as an aid to design, but he produced little sculpture. During this time, Munch received many commissions for portraits and prints which improved his usually precarious financial condition. After an earlier period of landscapes, in 1907 he turned his attention again to human figures and situations.

Legacy

When Munch died, he bequeathed his remaining works to the city of Oslo, which built the Munch Museum at Tøyen (it opened in 1963). The museum hosts a collection of approximately 1,100 paintings, 4,500 drawings, and 18,000 prints, the broadest collection of his works in the world. The Munch Museum currently serves at Munch's official Estate and has been active in responding to copyright infringements, as well as clearing copyright for the work, such as the appearance of Munch's The Scream in a 2006 M&M advertisement campaign. The U.S. copyright representative for the Munch Museum and the Estate of Edvard Munch is the Artists Rights Society.

One version of The Scream was stolen from the National Gallery in 1994. In 2004 another version of The Scream along with one of Madonna were stolen from the Munch Museum in a daring daylight robbery. All were eventually recovered, but the paintings stolen in the 2004 robbery were extensively damaged. They have been meticulously restored and are on display again. Three Munch works were stolen from the Hotel Refsnes Gods in 2005; they were shortly recovered, although one of the works was damaged during the robbery.

In October 2006, the color woodcut Two people. The lonely (To mennesker. De ensomme) set a new record for his prints when it was sold at an auction in Oslo for 8.1 million NOK (1.27 million USD). It also set a record for the highest price paid in auction in Norway. On November 3, 2008, the painting Vampire set a new record for his paintings when it was sold for 38.162 million USD at Sotheby's New York.

Munch appears on the Norwegian 1,000 Kroner note along with pictures inspired by his artwork.

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