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About Edvard Munch

A brief introduction to the artist Edvard Munch and his life in the Oslo region.

Edvard Munch: Angst/Anxiety
Edvard Munch: Angst/Anxiety
Photo: Munchmuseet

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.

The Oslo region in Edvard Munch's life

Edvard Munch had ties to several places in the Oslo region. He was born in Løten, Hedmark, where he lived for the first year of his life. His family then moved to Oslo (called Kristiania at the time), and Munch spent his childhood and early adult life in the capital.

From the 1890s Munch would stay abroad for long periods at a time, but regularly returned to the Oslo region. He particularly enjoyed the light and landscapes by the Oslo fjord, and resided in several fjord-side towns: Åsgårdstrand, Kragerø, Hvitsten and Moss. In 1916 he bought an estate at Ekely in Oslo, which remained his main residence until he passed away in the winter of 1944.