"From my rotting body,

flowers shall grow

and I am in them

and that is eternity."

-Edvard Munch

Happy Birthday, Edvard Munch!

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Edvard Munch (December 12, 1893 – January 23, 1944) was a Norwegian painter and printmaker who is known for his exploration of psychological themes and his contributions to the 19th century movement of Symbolism, and German Expressionism of the early 20th century. His most well–known work is The Scream, completed in 1893.

  

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Self Portrait with Skeleton Arm, 1895

Edvard Munch was born in a rustic farmhouse to Christian, a doctor and medical officer, and his wife, Laura Catherine Bjølstad. Edvard had an older sister, Johanne Sophie, and three younger siblings: Peter Andreas, Laura Catherine, and Inger Marie. Both Sophie and Edvard inherited their mother's artistic ability.

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By the Deathbed (Fever), 1893

In 1898, Edvard's mother died of tuberculosis, as did his favorite sister Johanne Sophie, in 1877. Afterward, Edvard and his siblings were raised by their father and their aunt Karen. The young Edvard was chronically ill, especially during the winte, and often kept out of school. Edvard kept himself occupied by drawing, and received tutorirng from his aunt.

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Aunt Karen in the Rocking Chair, 1883

Edvard's father Christian often regaled his children by reading them vivid ghost stories and tales from Edgar Allen Poe, as well as tutoring his son in history and literature. The doctor, however, was also morbidly pious. Of his father, the painter wrote, "My father was temperamentally nervous and obsessively religious—to the point of psychoneurosis. From him I inherited the seeds of madness. The angels of fear, sorrow, and death stood by my side since the day I was born."

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Christian reprimanded his children by telling them that their mother was looking down from heaven and grieving over their misbehavior. The oppressive religious milieu, plus Edvard's poor health and the vivid ghost stories, helped inspire macabre visions and nightmares in Edvard, who felt death constantly advancing on him. Munch would later write, "I inherited two of mankind's most frightful enemies—the heritage of consumption and insanity."

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Portrait of Inger Munch, 1892

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Jealousy, 1895

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Ashes, 1894

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Self Portrait with Burning Cigarette, 1895

In 1879, Munch enrolled in a technical college to study engineering, where he excelled in physics, chemistry, and math, although his studies were often marred by persistent illness. He left the college to become a painter, to his father's bitter disappointment, who considered art an "unholy trade". Munch, however, wrote in his diary a simple goal: "in my art I attempt to explain life and its meaning to myself."

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Evening on Karl Johan Street, 1892

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 included the sculptor Julius Middelthun and naturalistic painter Christian Krohg. Munch also formed a friendship with the nihilist writer and philosopher Hans Jæger, who lived by the code, "a passion to destroy is also a creative passion".

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Anxiety, 1894

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The Scream, 1895-1896

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The Scream, 1893

 

The Scream exists in four versions: two pastels (1893 and 1895) and two paintings (1893 and 1910). There are also several litographs of The Scream (1895 and later). 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."

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Four Ages in Life, 1902

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Girl Combing Her Hair, 1892

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The Sick Child, 1885-1886

The Sick Child is the title given to six paintings and a number of lithographs, drypoints and etchings completed by the artist between 1885 and 1926. All record a moment before the death of his older sister Johanne Sophie (1862–1877) from tuberculosis at 15, which deeply affected Munch for the rest of his life.

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The Sick Child, 1896

Additional Info

  • Birthday Date: Friday, 12 December 2014
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