Det syke barn (“The Sick Child”)
Scarcely 20 years of age, Munch produced his first mature work, Morgen (“Morning”), which depicts a partially-clad young girl on the edge of a bed. It is a masterful, naturalistic study of atmosphere and light.
A new painting style free from the restraints of Naturalism emerged in The Sick Child (1885-86, and later frequently repeated), in which a painfully relived childhood memory is expressed with uncommon simplicity and severity.
Skrik (“The Scream”) – a breakthrough Expressionist work
Munch’s breakthrough Expressionist work The Scream came in 1893. The painting is still recognised as a powerful, primal depiction of existential angst. It is one of the most widely used motifs in the world, and has been reproduced on countless mugs, mouse pads, book covers and T-shirts.
The paintings Vampyr (“Vampire”), Madonna, Stemmen (“The Voice”), Aske (“Ashes”), and Livets dans (“The Dance of Life”) followed in succession, as did the major composition Kvinnen i tre stadier (“The Frieze of Life”) (1894). The latter is often described as a summary of Munch’s distinctive ambivalence toward women.
In 1894 Munch began to work with graphic media, first etching and lithography, and a few years later, woodcut – which he would revolutionise. Prints such as The Sick Child, Kyss (“The Kiss”) and Madonna are now some of the most highly renowned modern graphic works. Munch’s graphic production totals over 700 works, including some 200 etchings and 140 woodcuts; the rest are lithographs. The subject matter of his graphic works closely resembles that of his paintings.
Oslo University murals
Munch’s works from the first decade of the 1900s bear witness to his suffering a nervous breakdown, which culminated in a six-month stay at a clinic in Copenhagen, Denmark, in 1908-09. After he left the clinic he returned to Norway and settled in Kragerø. He embarked with renewed zeal on a major commission – decorating the Aula (the Hall) of the University of Oslo – which he had won despite considerable opposition to his entry in the competition. The Hall was inaugurated in 1916, and the murals were soon recognised as major works in Norwegian monumental painting.
Edvard Munch died on 23 January 1944.
The largest collection of Munch’s works is currently owned by the Munch Museum in Oslo. The National Gallery in Oslo owns a number of major works and a wide selection of graphic prints. The Bergen Art Museum owns several paintings and some 100 graphic prints.
Munch’s works are also represented in other major Nordic museums and in a variety of German and Swiss collections.
The National Gallery’s version of The Scream was stolen in February 1994 and resurfaced about three months later. In August 2004 the Munch Museum’s version of The Scream and the painting Madonna were stolen in an armed robbery. The paintings were found two years later.