Edvard Munch bigraphy, stories - A Norwegian artist

Edvard Munch : biography

12 December 1863 - 23 January 1944

Edvard Munch was a second child of a military doctor Christian Munch. When Edvard was five years old, his mother died of tuberculosis, and in 1977 his elder sister Sophie died of the same illness – she was fifteen years old.

In 1879 Munch entered the Higher technical school in Oslo, but soon he changed to the State academy of art and artistic handicraft. His first teacher was a sculptor Middletun, since 1882 he was taught by a painter Christian Krohg. In 1885 he got an opportunity to go to Paris, where he visited the eighth and the last exhibition of impressionists. At that time he created his first widely known picture “The sick child”, in which illness and death of Sophie Munch were reflected. The first personal exhibition of the artist took place in 1889. Then he went to Europe owing to the grant, he lived in Paris and Berlin.

In Germany Munch exhibited his works with the local painter’s pictures, but his paintings provoked a scandal, and his exhibition was closed before the appointed time. Later many of these artists entered Berlin Secession. Munch became close friends with a Polish writer Stanislaw Przybyszewsky and his Norwegian wife Dagny Przybyszewsky. She became Munch’s muse for several years. She sat for many famous paintings, included “Madonna”, “Vampire”, “Jealousy”, “Kiss”.

In summer of 1889 Munch’s family rented a small house in Asgardstrand on the coast of Oslofjord, this place afterwards became a staring point in Munch’s art and life. That year he bought his own house in Asgardstrand and returned there practically every summer for twenty years. It was the place where he desired to be when he was abroad or felt tired and exhausted. “Walking in Asgardstrand is like walking among my pictures. I have an irresistible desire to paint, when I am in Asgardstrand” said Munch.

At the end of 18090-s Munch was working on series of paintings under the name “Friese of life – a poem about love, life and death”. It included works, united with the topic of love, femininity, fear, despair and death. Many of these pictures had different variants – Munch created them during his life, returning to one topic again and again. For example, “Madonna” and “A sick child” had five copies each. In 1893 Munch created “The Scream” – the most famous his work. “The Scream” is considered a token event of expressionism; Munch managed to express horror crept over the character with merely artistic means: colour range and winding lines, in the centre of which the character is situated.

In 1900-s Munch had an unfortunate affair with a young Norwegian woman. She was in love with the artist and insisted that they should marry, but he felt as a burden. It lasted for four years, and once in 1902 his girlfriend and Munch’s friends played a trick on him: friends said that she had died and showed him her body. According to the plan, girlfriend’s “raising from the death” should kindle the flame of love. But Munch reacted very painfully, in that day he had a quarrel with his friends and hurt his arm, later he had to have his finger amputated. Later on he had several quarrels with friends and even unknown people, and finally in 1908 he was sent to a psychiatric clinic in Copenhagen with mental derangement. He spent half a year in the clinic. During his stay in it Munch made some pictures and engravings, including a portrait of a professor Jacobsen who treated him.

Since 1909 Munch’s style changed to more sharp and rough manners. Late pictures were painted with wide strokes and was rich of bright contrasting colours. In 1920-s he endured a haemmorrhage in hyaloid membrane of the right eye, and he stopped painting. He made sketches in distorted forms because of this haemmorrhage. He also had a manic-depressive illness.

In the last ten years Munch became famous and acknowledged. His personal exhibitions took place in the largest European cities, in 1933 he became a holder of Order of Saint Olav.


The most famous work of Munch was a picture “Scream”, which in fact was series of similar pictures. Initially the picture was called “Despair”. The image of horror in this picture, which was perfected by Munch till the end of his life, nowadays is one of the symbols of conceptual art.


In 1963 a museum of Munch was founded in Oslo. On the 22nd of August in 2994 two pictures “Scream” and “Madonna” were stolen by two armed criminals. In May of 2006 the accused were sentenced to imprisonment, in August the police managed to find these paintings. During being in thiefs’ hand both canvases had got damages: they had scratches and moisture tracks, canvases were slightly torn.

According to the words of the museum’s representative, a spot in the corner of the painting is still visible. “Restorers didn’t want to make irreversible effects” – they said in the museum. In the future new methods possibly will allow to remove the spot from the picture.

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