Edvard Munch

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Edvard Munch
The last major works

Despite the aesthetic disorder revealed by all these works, they constitute the most spontaneous and unreflective portion of his work at this period. For Munch had now undertaken commissions for murals as well, the first of which, painted at Krageroe, were for the assembly hall of the University of Oslo, where they were installed in 1916, after the artist had overcome the many difficulties involved in obtaining acceptance of them.

These large panels are in part a repetition by Munch, in a more universal form, of the ideology of his Frieze of Life, which, he said, had helped him to develop his « decorative sense.» The compositions bear such titles as The Sun, The Human Mountain, The Researchers, History, Chemistry, and Alma Mater. Although nothing in them warrants our viewing them as Expressionist paintings, in elaborating his themes Munch retained a spiritual attitude that may justify what the Austrian writer Hermann Bahr saw in Expressionism, namely, a manifestation of the «universal soul» (Gesamtgeist). The outcome of Munch's lengthy preparatory studies is very disappointing. Patient effort has succeeded violence: we feel in them a laborious studio labor in which philosophical intent does not palliate pictorial weakness.
The murals he painted in 1922 for the dining room of the Freia chocolate factory in Oslo are no better; they are a repetition, in greatly impoverished and almost caricatural fashion, of several subjects from his excellent early paintings. Even more disappointing are the paintings for the numerous panels intended for the Oslo City Hall, which he began working on in 1928 and continued until his death in 1944. It is true that in the interval, beginning in 1930, sight problems obliged him to almost completely abandon his artistic activity for several years.
During this period, however, Munch came to be considered a national hero in his native land. He wanted for neither commissions nor honors. In 1908 he was named Knight of the Royal Order of Saint Olaf, and the Grand Cross of the same Order was awarded to him in 1933. Major exhibitions were devoted to him, not only in Scandinavia but also in Cologne (1912), Zurich, Basel, and Berne (1922), Berlin and Mannheim (1927), Dresden (1929), London (1936), and Amsterdam (1937). For a long time to come, however, he continued to be unappreciated in France, and not until 1952, several years after his death, was a Munch exhibition held at the Petit Palais in Paris. Since then there has been just one exhibition of his graphic work at the Musee des Arts Decoratifs in 1969 to remind us that he was a remarkable engraver. The 1974 retrospective at the Musee National d'Art Moderne, with 86 canvases, 55 watercolors and drawings, and 116 prints can be regarded as just, if tardy, reparation for an incomprehensible omission. However, the works exhibited represent only a small portion of the 1,000 canvases, 4,400 watercolors and drawings, more than 15,000 prints, and six sculptures left by the Norwegian painter. The existence of this great body of work made it possible to establish the Munch Museum in Oslo, which was opened in 1963.
Apart from the particular features relative to the various periods of his evolution, and the aesthetic and psychological characteristics revealed by an analysis of his art, what strikes us in Munch's work (and this was probably one of the reasons it escaped the attention of many historians of modern art) is the fact that it cannot be included fully in any given « school. »
If the Expressionists adopted him, it was because his work, as embodied in a certain number of paintings, anticipated their conceptions. But, as we have seen, what Munch created goes far beyond the theoretical and formal limits of Expressionism. Thus nothing justifies the persistence with which this body of work has been classified as a branch of the historical line of painting, because in fact this sideline or branch is the very factor that challenges the merits of the «historical line,» and this it is, precisely, that shows Munch's independence and originality.
The fact that his output was uneven during his sixty years of creative activity is of interest to us only insofar as our curiosity about the man is concerned with the effects on his art of the contradictory aspects of his nature and the happy or unhappy events in his life. But our curiosity would be meaningless were it not motivated by the admiration aroused in us by one of the most individual and most disturbing painters of our century.

The Murderer on the Lane

Los cuatro hijos de Dr. Max Linde

Dia de verano


The Murderer



Jovenes y patos



Self-Portrait Between Bed and Clock

Workers Returning Home

Workers Returning Home

Atardecer en el Paseo Karl Johann



The Seine at Saint-Cloud. 1890. 46 × 38 cm. Munch Museum, Oslo

At the Roulette Table in Monte Carlo. 1892. 74,5 × 116 cm. Munch Museum, Oslo

August Strindberg. 1892. Oil on canvas, 120 × 90 cm. Museum of Modern Art, Stockholm, Sweden

Starry Night. 1893. 135.6 × 140 cm. J. Paul Getty Museum.

Evening. Melancholy I. 1896. 41.1 × 55.7 cm. Munch Museum, Oslo

Separation. 1896. 96 × 127 cm. Munch Museum, Oslo

Metabolism. 1898–99. 172 × 142 cm. Munch Museum, Oslo

Train Smoke. 1900. 84 × 109 cm. Munch Museum, Oslo

Portrait of Friedrich Nietzsche (1906)

Death of Marat I (1907)

Jealousy. 1907. 75 × 98 cm. Munch Museum, Oslo

Galloping Horse. 1910–12. 148 × 120 cm. Munch Museum, Oslo

On the Sofa. 1913. 80 × 150 cm. Munch Museum, Oslo

Weeping Nude. 1913–14. 110 × 135 cm. Munch Museum, Oslo

Self-Portrait in Hell. 1903. 82 × 66 cm. Munch Museum, Oslo