Edvard Munch is remembered as a leading painter of post-impressionism and a pioneer of expressionism. His seminal work The Scream is one of the most iconic artworks of 20th-century modernism and one of the most recognizable paintings in the world. The Scream was processed in various ways by Edvard Munch, in four paintings and one lithograph between the years 1893 and 1910. To this day, it is still Munch’s most famous painting – but it is by no means the only remarkable work.
Edvard Munch And Modernism
The Norwegian artist Edvard Munch is regarded as the painter of modernism. Early on, Munch, who is said to have had a difficult childhood himself, was confronted with the experience of illness and death. When Munch was five years old, his mother died of tuberculosis, and soon afterward his older sister also died. His younger sister was under medical treatment for psychological problems. Motifs such as death and illness but also other existential emotional states such as love, fear or melancholy run through the pictorial and graphic work of Edvard Munch. While these themes appear in The Scream, they are also present in Munch’s other works. In the following, we present nine paintings by Edvard Munch which you should also know.
1. The Sick Child (1925)
The painting The Sick Child (1925) is in several respects an important work in the art of Edvard Munch. In this painting, Munch dealt with the tuberculosis disease of his elder sister Sophie. The artist himself described the earliest version of the painting as a breakthrough in his art. “Most of what I did later was born in this painting,” Munch wrote about the artwork in 1929. Between 1885/86 and 1927, the artist produced a total of six different paintings of the same motif. They all show the same two figures painted in different styles.
Here you can see a later version of The Sick Child. The most striking features of this motif are the looks of the two figures in the picture. Averted from the view of the viewers of the painting, it tells of farewell and mourning. The chaotic, wild style of the painting also catches the eye immediately. Together with the bright red hair of the girl in the picture, the motif testifies to inner restlessness – as if a terrible experience was about to happen.
2. Night In St. Cloud (1890)
A man, wearing a hat, sitting in the darkness of a room and looking out the window of a room in a Parisian suburb onto the nightly Seine. This is what we see at first glance in Edvard Munch’s painting Night in St. Cloud (1890). There is something thoughtful, something melancholic about this scene. The emptiness of the room, but also the silence of the night and calm emerge. At the same time, the man in the painting is almost disappearing within the darkness of the room.
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The melancholy in this painting is often associated with the death of Munch’s father and with the loneliness the artist is said to have experienced after he moved to France. Within Munch’s art, Night in St. Cloud is attributed to Symbolism. The modernist artwork is also an expression of painterly decadence.
3. Madonna (1894 – 95)
When the painting Madonna was exhibited for the first time, it had a frame decorated with painted sperms and a fetus. Thus the work is also a testimony to Munch’s scandalous radiance at his creative period. The painting shows the naked upper body of a woman with her eyes closed. With the title of the painting, Edvard Munch joins a long tradition of Madonna paintings in art.
In Edvard Munch’s case, his depiction of the Madonna was interpreted very differently. Some interpretations emphasize the representation of orgasm, others the mysteries of birth. Munch himself pointed out the death aspect in his painting. The painting Madonna was created at a time when Munch also produced his famous painting The Scream in the 1890s.
4. The Kiss (1892)
Edvard Munch’s painting entitled The Kiss shows a couple standing in front of a window, kissing, almost merging into each other. The Kiss was brought to paper and canvas by Munch in many variations. In later versions of the painting, Munch painted the kissing figures naked and also placed them more in the center of the artwork.
The Kiss was a typical picture motif of 19th-century bourgeois art. It can also be found in the work of artists such as Albert Bernards and Max Klinger. However, Munch’s depiction differs from the ones of his artist colleagues. While in other art, the kiss usually has something fleeting about it, Munch’s kiss seems like something lasting. The motif can be interpreted as a traditional representation of love itself, as the merging of two people, as their fusion.
5. Ashes (1894)
The painting Ashes originally bears the Norwegian title Aske. The painting is also known under the title After the Fall. The picture motif is one of the most complicated motifs in Edvard Munch’s art because the motif is not exactly easy to decipher. First of all, take a close look: In Ashes, Munch depicts a woman as the central figure of the picture. With her arms held to her head, she faces the viewer, her dress is still open, her gaze and posture speak of desperation. Next to her, a male figure crouches in the picture. Demonstratively, the man turns his head and thus also his gaze away from the viewer. It seems as if the man is ashamed as if he wants to escape the situation. The entire scene is placed in nature, with a forest in the background.
Edvard Munch’s painting Ashes was often simply interpreted as a picture of the man’s inadequacy in the sexual act. Others see the motif as a representation of the end of a love affair. A look at the second title of the picture After the Fall allows another interpretation: What if Munch here depicts the biblical Fall of Man, but with a different outcome. It is not the woman who sinks into shame from there on, but the male figure that represents Adam.
6. Anxiety (1894)
The oil painting titled Anxiety by the expressionist artist Edvard Munch is a special combination of two other paintings we know from the Norwegian artist. One reference is almost unmistakable: the style of the painting Anxiety is very similar to the style that can also be found in Munch’s most famous work The Scream. However, the motif is also based on a second well-known work by the artist: From the painting Evening On Karl Johan Street (1892), which refers to the death of Munch’s mother, he has taken over almost the entire decoration of the figures.
Beyond these self-references, the painting is also said to pay tribute to writer Stanislaw Przybyszewski, whose novel Mass for the Dead Edvard Munch is said to have read shortly before creating his oil painting.
7. Melancholy (1894/84)
Edvard Munch’s motif of melancholy, which he painted again and again in different variations, bears many names. It is also known under the titles Evening, Jealousy, The Yellow Boat or Jappe on the Beach. In the foreground, the image shows a man sitting on the beach, his head resting thoughtfully in his hand. Far towards the horizon, there is a couple walking on the beach. In this motif, Munch dealt with the unhappy love affair of his friend Jappe Nilssen with the married Oda Krohg, in which his own past relationship with an also married woman was reflected. The melancholy figure in the foreground is therefore associated both with Munch’s friend and with the painter himself. Melancholy is regarded as one of the first symbolist paintings by the Norwegian painter.
Especially in this oil painting, the colors and the soft lines in the picture are another astonishing element of the image. Unlike in other works by Edvard Munch, they do not radiate a deep restlessness or coldness. Instead, they radiate a gentle and yet, as the title suggests, also a melancholy mood.
8. Two Women On The Shore (1898)
Two Women On The Shore (1898) is a particularly interesting motif of Edvard Munch. In many different woodcuts, Munch developed the motif further and further. Also in this woodcut, the artist deals with great themes like life and death. Here we see a young and an old woman at the shore of the sea. Their clothes and the contrast between black and white of their dresses reflect the contrast of their age. One could also assume that Munch here refers to the death that man always carries with him in life. In the 1930s Munch also transferred the motif with the two women to canvas. It is one of the few pictures that Munch made directly from the graphic to the painterly image.
9. Moonlight (1893)
In his painting Moonlight (1893), Edvard Munch spreads a particularly mystical mood. Here the artist finds a very special way of dealing with light. The moon seems to be unmistakably reflected in the woman’s pale face, which immediately attracts the viewer’s attention. The house and the fence literally fade into the background. The green shadow of the woman on the house wall is the only pictorial element that actually suggests a pictorial space. In Moonlight it is not the emotions that play the main role, it is a lighting mood that Edvard Munch brings to the canvas here.
Edward Munch: Painter Of Depth
The Norwegian painter Edvard Munch has been preoccupied with great feelings and emotions all his life. In his art he always worked after large picture cycles, changing motifs slightly and often reworking them. The works of Edvard Munch are mostly deeply touching and reach far beyond the boundaries of the canvas on which they are presented. No wonder that Munch initially shocked some of his contemporaries with his modern art at the beginning of the 20th century. It is, however, also no wonder that Munch is still one of the most famous artists of all time.