Who was Edvard Munch - Articles - visitoslo.com

Who was Edvard Munch?

A brief introduction to the artist Edvard Munch and his relation to Oslo.


Edvard Munch the artist


In the context of art history, Munch is commonly classified as a symbolist and an initiator and early representative for expressionism, which became an important modernist movement in the former part of the 20th century. Already as a very young artist in the 1880s, Munch made room for his own emotional experiences in his art works. This represented a break with the contemporary dominating style of naturalism, which focused on objective renditions of the observable. In this sense, Munch anticipated the turn in the arts that started fully in the 1890s, towards subjectivity and introspection. Existential themes such as anxiety, death, love, jealousy, and melancholy became central.


To express strong, subjective emotions required a different mode of expression than the naturalists'. In his search to express “the most subtle visions of the soul”, Munch eventually come to develop his characteristic idiom. Munch mixes inner and outer realities in large shapes, delineated by clear contours. The motifs are stylized, and he employs a set of fixed picture symbols to represent different states and emotions.



Munch was unusually productive. He is best known for his paintings, but used many different techniques. He was particularly innovative as a graphicist, and experimented eagerly with new media such as photography and film.


Oslo in Edvard Munch’s life


Edvard Munch was born in Løten, a small place located north of Oslo, in 1863. The Munch family moved to Kristiania, as Oslo was called at that time, when Edvard was one year old. He grew up in Kristiania, mainly at different addresses in the borough Grünerløkka.


It was while living in Kristiania Munch decided to become an artist, and it was here that he started his art education. He was still living in Kristiania when he first parted with the mainstream traditions and took the first step towards the expressionistic style that would later make him famous.


In 1889 Munch left the city, and twenty years passed without him having a permanent residence here. He spent significant time in Paris and Berlin during these years. He did occasionally visit Kristiania during the 1890s, however, and gave a few important exhibitions in the city.


The Old Munch at Ekely
The Old Munch at Ekely
Photo: Munchmuseet


In the beginning of the 1900’s, Munch got an increasingly negative attitude towards Kristiania. His summers in Norway were spent further south. However, In 1916 he returned to the area when he bought the property Ekely at Skøyen a bit outside the city centre. Munch both lived and worked at Ekely, and had little contact with Kristiania and the people there. Ekely remained Munch’s home until he died in 1944.

Sources: Frank Høifødt. 2002. Munch in Oslo. Damm; munchmuseet.no