Edvard Munch (12 December 1863 – 23 January 1944) was a Norwegian painter. His most famous work, The Scream, is one of the iconic paintings of world art.
His childhood was overshadowed by illness, grief and the fear of inheriting a mental condition that plagued his family. Studying at the Royal School of Art and Design in Christiania (now Oslo), Munch began to live a bohemian life under the influence of the nihilist Hans Yeager, who encouraged him to paint his own emotional and psychological state (”soul painting”). From this emerged his distinctive style.
Travel brought new influences and outlets. In Paris he learned much from Paul Gauguin, Vincent van Gogh and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, especially their use of colour. In Berlin he met the Swedish playwright August Strindberg, whom he painted as he began his great canon The Life Bearer of Life, which depicts a series of intensely emotional themes such as love, anxiety, jealousy and betrayal, full of atmosphere.
The Scream was inspired in Christiania. According to him, he was walking outside at sunset when he “heard the vast, infinite cry of nature”. The anguished face of the painting is widely identified with the ”angst” (agony, fear, anxiety) of the modern individual. Between 1893 and 1910 he made two painted versions and two pastel versions, as well as a series of prints. One of the pastels eventually achieved the fourth highest nominal price ever paid for a painting at auction.
While his fame and wealth grew, his emotional state remained insecure. For a while he considered marriage, but could not bring it to fruition. A breakdown in 1908 forced him to stop his heavy drinking and he was encouraged by his growing acceptance by the people of Christiania and his exhibitions in the city”s museums. His last years were spent working peacefully and privately. Although his works were banned in Nazi Germany, most of them survived World War II, ensuring him a great legacy.
Edvard Munch was born in a farmhouse in the village of Odalsbrook in the municipality of Letten, Norway, to Laura Katerine Bjelstad and Christian Munch, the son of a priest. Christian Munch was a doctor and medical officer who married Lsura, who was half his age in 1861. Edvard had an older sister, Johane Sofie (born 1862), and three younger brothers, Peter Andreas (1865), Lsura Katrine (1867) and Inger Marie (1868). Laura had artistic talent and may have encouraged Edvard and Sophie. Edvard was a relative of the painter Jacob Munch (1776-1839) and the historian Peter Andreas Munch (1810-1863).
The family moved to Christiania (now Oslo) in 1864, when Christian Munch was appointed as a military doctor at Fort Akersus. Edvard”s mother died of tuberculosis in 1868, as did his beloved sister Johane Sofie in 1877. His father also died young, in 1889. After the death of their mother, Munch”s siblings were raised by their father and their aunt Karen. Often sick for long periods of time in the winters, he was absent from school and painted to pass the time. He was taught by his classmates and his aunt. Christian Munch also taught his son history and literature and entertained children with lively fiction stories and the stories of American author Edgar Allan Poe.
As Edvard recalled, Christian”s positive attitude towards his children was overshadowed by his morbid piety. Munch wrote: “My father was by temperament nervous and obsessively religious – to the point of psychoneurosis. From him I inherited the seeds of paranoia. The angels of fear, sorrow and death have stood by my side since the day I was born. Christian scolded his children, telling them that their mother was looking down on them from heaven and lamenting their bad behavior. The repressive religious environment, Edvard”s poor health and vivid ghost stories helped inspire their macabre visions and nightmares. The boy felt that death was constantly coming at him. One of Munch”s younger sisters, Laura, was diagnosed with mental illness at a young age. Of the five siblings, only Peter Andreas married, but he died a few months after the wedding. Munch would later write:
I inherited two of the most terrible enemies of mankind – the legacy of tuberculosis and insanity – disease, madness and death were the black angels that stood in my cradle.
His military pay was very low and his attempts to pursue a liberal profession at the same time failed, keeping his family in decent but persistent poverty. They moved frequently from one cheap apartment to another. Early drawings and watercolors depicted these interiors and individual objects, such as medicine bottles and drawing instruments, and some landscapes. From his teens, art dominated Munch”s interests. At thirteen he first exhibited his work to other artists at the newly formed Artists” Union where he admired the works of the Norwegian school of landscape painting. He returned to copy the paintings and began to paint in oils.
In 1879 Munch enrolled at a technical college to study engineering, where he excelled in physics, chemistry and mathematics. He learned drawing with scale and perspective, but frequent illnesses interrupted his studies. The following year, much to his father”s dismay, he left college determined to become a painter. His father considered art an “unholy profession” and his neighbors reacted bitterly and sent him anonymous letters. In contrast to his father”s fanatical piety, Munch maintained an unadulterated attitude towards art. He wrote about his goal in his diary: “In my art I try to explain life and its meaning to myself.
In 1881 he enrolled at the Royal School of Art and Design in Christiania, one of the founders of which was a distant relative of Jacob Munch. His teachers were the sculptor Wulius Mideltun and the naturalist painter Christian Krogh. It was at this time that Munch demonstrated the rapid results of his training in portraiture at the Academy with his first portraits, including one of his father and his self-portrait. In 1883 Munch had his first public exhibition and shared a studio with other students. His full-length portrait of Carl Jensen-Hegel, a notorious bohemian type in the city, received a dismissive critique: “It”s impressionism taken to the extreme. It is a parody of art.” Munch”s paintings of nudes from this period survive only in sketches, except for Upright Nude (1887), perhaps because they were confiscated by his father.
In these early years Munch experimented with many styles, such as naturalism and impressionism. Some of his early works are reminiscent of Manet. Many of these efforts provoked negative reviews in the press and constant reprimands from his father, who nevertheless provided him with small amounts of money for his living expenses. At some point, however, his father, influenced by the negative opinion of Munch”s cousin Edvard Diricks (an established, traditional painter), destroyed at least one painting (possibly a nude) and no longer refused him money for painting materials.
Munch also drew his father”s ire for his relationship with Hans Yeager, the local nihilist, who lived by the code “a destructive passion is also a creative passion” and advocated suicide as the final path to freedom. Munch himself stated: “My ideas evolved under the influence of the Bohemians, or rather Hans Yeager. Many have wrongly claimed that my ideas were formed under the influence of Strindberg and the Germans … but this is wrong. They were then already formed.” At the time, unlike many other bohemians, Munch still had respect for women and was restrained and well-mannered, but he began to indulge in the sickly drinking and argumentativeness of his circle. He was uncomfortable with the sexual revolution of the time and with the independent women around him. He later turned to a cynical approach to sexual issues, expressed not only in his behavior and works, but also in his writings, exemplified by the long poem The City of Free Love. Still heavily dependent on his family for sustenance, Munch”s relationship with his father remained strained due to his concerns about his bohemian life.
After much experimentation, Munch concluded that the Impressionist idiom did not allow him sufficient expressiveness. He found it superficial and too familiar for scientific experimentation. He felt a need to go deeper and explore situations full of emotional content and expressive energy. At Yeager”s injunction that he had to “write his life down”, meaning that Munch had to explore his own emotional and psychological state, the young artist began a period of mirroring and self-examination, recording his thoughts in his “diary of his soul”. This deeper perspective helped him move to a new perspective on his art. He wrote that his The Sick Child (1886), based on the death of his sister, was his first “soul painting”, his first break with impressionism. The painting was negatively received by critics and his family and provoked another “violent outburst of moral indignation” from the community.
Only his friend Christian Krogg supported him:
He paints, or rather sees, things in a different way than other artists. He sees only the essential and that, of course, is all he paints. This is why Munch”s paintings are “incomplete”, so people are so pleased that they discover them on their own. Oh yes, they are complete, the complete work of his hands. Art is complete once the artist has really said what was in his mind, and that is the advantage Munch has over other painters, that he really knows how to show us how he has felt and what has overwhelmed him, and to that he subordinates everything else.
Munch continued to use a variety of brush techniques and color palettes throughout the 1880s and early 1890s as he struggled to define his style. His idiom continued to veer between naturalism, as in Hans Yeager”s Portrait of Hans Yeager, and impressionism in Ry Lafayette. His The Inger on the Beach (1889), which provoked another storm of confusion and controversy, foreshadowed the simplified forms, heavy contours, stark contrasts, and emotional content of his mature style. He began to carefully calculate his compositions to create tension and emotion. Stylistically influenced by the post-impressionists, they evolved into a symbolic content, depicting a state of mind rather than an external reality. In 1889 Munch presented his first solo exhibition of almost all his works up to that time. The recognition he received earned him a two-year state scholarship to study in Paris alongside the painter Leon Bonaparte.
Munch is said to have been an early critic of photography as an art form and observed that “it will never compete with the brush and palette, until photographs are taken in Heaven or Hell”.
Munch”s younger sister Laura was the subject of his 1899 play Melancholy: Laura. Amanda O”Neill says of the play : “In this warmly claustrophobic scene, Munch depicts not only Laura”s tragedy, but also his fear of the paranoia he may have inherited.
Munch arrived in Paris during the celebrations of the Exposition Universelle (1889 International Exhibition) and stayed with two fellow Norwegian artists. His painting Morning (1884) was exhibited at the Norwegian pavilion. He spent his mornings in Bonas” busy studio (which included live female models) and his afternoons at the Exposition, in galleries and in museums (where students made copies as a way of technical learning and observation). Munch was hardly enthusiastic about Bonah”s painting lessons – “It tires me and bores me – it”s de-sketching” – but he enjoyed his comments during museum visits.
Munch was excited by the huge exhibition of modern European art, including works by three artists who would influence him: Paul Gauguin, Vincent van Gogh and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec – all important for how they used color to convey emotion. Munch was particularly inspired by Gauguin”s “reaction against realism” and his belief that “art was human work and not an imitation of Nature,” a belief Whistler had earlier articulated. As one of his friends in Berlin later said of Munch, “he did not have to go to Tahiti to see and experience the primitivism of human nature. He brings his own Tahiti within himself.” Influenced by Gauguin, as well as prints by German artist Max Klinger, Munch experimented with prints as a means of creating illustrations for his works. In 1896 he created his first woodcuts – a medium that proved ideal for his symbolic images. Along with his contemporary Nikolai Astrup, Munch is considered an innovator of woodblock printing in Norway.
In December 1889 his father died, leaving his family destitute. He returned to his father”s home and took out a large loan from a wealthy Norwegian collector when wealthy relatives would not help him, and he has since assumed financial responsibility for his family. Christian”s death caused him depression and he was tormented by suicidal thoughts: “I live with the dead – my mother, my sister, my grandfather, my father … Kill yourself and then it”s over. Why live?” Munch”s paintings the following year included sketches of tavern scenes and a series of luminous landscapes in which he experimented with Georges Serra”s pointillist style.
In 1892 Munch formulated his characteristic and original, compositional aesthetic, as can be seen in “Melancholy” (1891), where colour is the element-bearer of symbolism. It was considered by the artist and journalist Christian Krogh to be the first symbolist painting by a Norwegian artist and was exhibited in 1891 at the Oslo Autumn Exhibition. In 1892 Adelsten Norman, on behalf of the Berlin Artists” Association, invited Munch to exhibit his works at its November exhibition, the Association”s first solo exhibition. However, his paintings caused a heated controversy (dubbed the “Munch Affair”) and after a week the exhibition was closed. Munch was delighted with the “great uproar”, and wrote in a letter, “I have never been so amused – it is incredible that something so innocent as painting could cause such a stir.”
In Berlin Munch came into contact with an international circle of writers, artists and critics, including the Swedish dramatist and leading intellectual August Strindberg, whom he painted in 1892. He also met the Danish writer and painter Holger Drahman, whom he also painted in 1898. Drachmann was 17 years older and Munch”s companion at the tavern ”Zum schwarzen Ferke” in 1893-94. In 1894, Druckmann wrote of Munch. Good luck with your struggles, lonely Norwegian.”
During his four years in Berlin Munch sketched most of the ideas that would make up his major work, “The Life Carrier”, originally conceived as a book illustration but later expressed in paintings. He sold little, but had some income from charging a ticket to view his controversial paintings. Already Munch was showing reluctance to part with his paintings, which he called his “children.”
His other paintings, including the casino scenes, show a simplification of form and detail that marked his early mature style. Munch also began to favor a shallow pictorial space and a minimal setting for his frontal figures. Since the poses were chosen to bring out the most convincing images of states of mind and psychological conditions, as in ””Ashes,”” the figures convey a monumental, static quality. Munch”s figures seem to play roles in a theatrical scene (””Death in the Sick Room””), whose pantomime of still poses express various emotions. Since each character embodies a unique psychological dimension, as in ””The Scream,”” Munch”s men and women began to seem more symbolic than realistic. He wrote: “No longer must interiors be painted, men reading and women knitting: there will be living people, breathing and feeling, pain and love.”
The Scream exists in four editions: two pastels (1893 and 1895) and two paintings (1893 and 1910). There are also several lithographs of it (1895 and later).
The 1895 pastel was sold at auction on 2 May 2012 for US$119,922,500, including commission. It is the most colorful of the issues and is distinguished by the downward looking pose of one of the figures in the background. It is also the only version not owned by a museum in Norway.
The 1893 edition was stolen from the National Gallery in Oslo in 1994 but was recovered. The 1910 painting was stolen in 2004 from the Munk Museum in Oslo, but was recovered in 2006 with limited damage.
The Scream is Munch”s most famous work and one of the most recognizable paintings in all of art. It has been widely interpreted as representative of the universal anxiety of modern man. Painted in broad bands of color and very simplified forms, and with a high angle of view, it reduces the anguished figure to a covered skull with the odes of an emotional crisis.
With this painting Munch achieved his stated goal of “the study of the soul, which means the study of myself”. Munch wrote about how the painting came to be: “I was walking down the street with two friends when the sun was setting. Suddenly the sky turned as red as blood. I stopped and leaned against the fence, feeling unspeakably tired. Tongues of fire and blood stretched over the bluish black fjord. My friends kept walking, while I stayed behind, shaking with fear. Then I heard the vast, infinite cry of nature. ” He later described the personal agony behind the painting, ”for several years I was almost mad … Do you know my painting, “The Scream”? I stretched myself to the limit – nature screamed in my blood… After that, I gave up hope that I could love again. “
Summing up the impact of the panel, author Martha Tendesi said:
“Whistler”s Mother, Wood”s American Gothic, Leonardo da Vinci”s Mona Lisa and Edvard Munch”s The Scream have achieved something that most paintings – regardless of their historical significance, beauty or monetary value – have not: they communicate a specific meaning almost immediately to almost every viewer. These few works have successfully made the transition from the elitist realm of the museum visitor to the vast realm of popular culture.”
In December 1893 an exhibition of Munch”s work was held at Unter den Linden in Berlin, where, among other things, six paintings entitled Study for a Series were shown: Eros. This began a cycle that he later called Life”s Zephyr – A Poem about Life, Love and Death. The motifs of ”The Life Carrier”, such as The Storm and Moonlight, are full of atmosphere. Other motifs illuminate the nocturnal side of love, such as Rose and Amelie and Vampire. In Death in the Sick Man”s Room, the theme is the death of his sister Sophia, which he worked on again in many future variations. The dramatic focus of the painting, which depicts his entire family, is dispersed through the separate and disconnected forms of grief. In 1894 he broadened the range of motifs by adding Stress, Ashes, Madonna” and Women in Three Scenes (from innocence to old age).
Around the beginning of the 20th century, Munch worked to finish the “Life Carrier”. He painted many paintings, many of them in larger format and to some extent in the Art Nouveau aesthetic of the time. He made a wooden frame with carved reliefs for the large painting Metabolism (1898), originally called Adam and Eve. This work reveals Munch”s concern for the “fall of man” and his pessimistic philosophy of love. Motifs such as The Empty Cross and Calvary (both circa 1900) reflect a metaphysical orientation and also reflect Munch”s pious upbringing. The entire Zephyr was first shown at the Zetschionist exhibition in Berlin in 1902.
The themes of the “Life Carrier” recur throughout Munch”s work, but he focused on them particularly in the mid-1890s. In sketches, paintings, pastels, and prints, he drew on the depths of his emotions to examine his main motifs: the stages of life, the femme fatale, the despair of love, anxiety, infidelity, jealousy, sexual humiliation, and separation in life and death. These themes are expressed in paintings such as The Sick Child (1885), Love and Pain (subtitled Vampire, 1893-94), Ashes (1894) and The Bridge. The latter shows weak figures with natural or hidden faces, over which there are menacing shapes of heavy trees and threatening houses. Munch depicted women either as weak, innocent, suffering (see Puberty and Love and Pain) or as the cause of great desire, jealousy and despair (see Separation, Jealousy and Ashes)
Munch often uses shadows and rings of colour around his figures to emphasise an aura of fear, threat, anxiety or sexual tension. These paintings have been interpreted as reflections of the artist”s sexual concerns, although it could also be argued that they represent his turbulent relationship with love itself and his general pessimism about human existence. Many of these sketches and paintings were made in various versions, such as Madonna, Hands and Puberty, and were also transcribed as woodblock prints and lithographs. Munch hated to part with his paintings because he thought of his work as a single expressive body. So, in order to capitalize on his output and make some income, he turned to graphic arts to reproduce many of his paintings, including those in this series. Munch acknowledged the personal goals of his work, but he also offered his art to a larger cause, “My art is really a voluntary confession and an attempt to explain to myself my relationship to life – it is, therefore, really a kind of selfishness, but I constantly hope that through it I can help others achieve a clarification.
While provoking strongly negative reactions, in the 1890s Munch began to gain some understanding of his artistic aims, as one critic wrote: ”With ruthless disdain for form, clarity, elegance, wholeness and realism, he paints with the instinctive power of his talent the subtlest visions of the soul. ” One of his great supporters in Berlin was Walter Rattenau, German Foreign Minister, who contributed greatly to his success.
In 1896 Munch moved to Paris, where he concentrated on his representations of the themes of the Life Carpet. He further developed his woodcut and lithographic technique. Self-Portrait with Arm Skeleton (1895) was executed using a method of needle and ink engraving also used by Paul Klee. Munch also produced colorful editions of The Sick Child, which dealt with tuberculosis, and sold well, as well as many nudes and several editions of The Kiss (1892). Many of the Parisian critics still considered his work “violent and brutal”, but his exhibitions were well received and well attended. His financial situation improved considerably, and in 1897 he bought a summer residence overlooking the fjords of Christianis (Oslo), a small late 18th-century fishing hut in the small Norwegian town of Osgornstrand. He called it “The Happy House” and returned here almost every summer for the next 20 years. It was what he missed when he was abroad and when he felt depressed and exhausted. “Walking around Osgordstrand is like walking among my paintings – I get so inspired to paint when I”m here.”
In 1897 Munch returned to Christiania, where he also received a resentful reception – one critic wrote: “A large number of these paintings have been exhibited before. In my opinion, they improve with familiarity.” In 1899 Munch began a very close relationship with Tula Larsen, a “liberated” upper-class woman. They traveled to Italy together and when they returned Munch began a new fertile period in his art, which included landscapes and the final painting in his “The Life Bearer” series, The Dance of Life (1899). Larsen was anxious for marriage. His drinking and ill health intensified his fears, as he wrote in a third person: “Ever since he was a child he hated marriage. His sick and nervous home had given him the feeling that he had no right to marry.” Munch almost gave in to Tula, but abandoned her in 1900, losing her large fortune with her, and moved to Berlin. His play The Girls on the Waterfront, in eighteen different versions, brought out the theme of female youth without negative connotations. In 1902 he exhibited his works thematically in the Berlin Secessionist Hall, producing “a symphonic effect – it caused a great stir – a great reaction – and great approval.” Berlin critics began to appreciate Munch”s work even though audiences still found his work foreign and strange.
Widespread press coverage brought Munch to the attention of noted patrons Albert Coleman and Max Linde. He described the turn of events in his diary, “After twenty years of struggle and misery the forces of good have finally come to my aid in Germany – and a bright door is opening for me.” However, despite this positive change, his self-destructive and erratic behavior involved him first in a violent altercation with another artist and then in an accidental shooting in the presence of Tula Larsen, who had returned for a brief reconciliation, that injured two of his fingers. Munch later sawed in half a self-portrait depicting himself and Larsen as a consequence of the shooting and the events that followed. She eventually left him and married a younger colleague. Munch took this as a betrayal and lived in humiliation for a while, channeling some of his bitterness into new paintings. His paintings Still Life (The Slayer) and The Death of Mara I, painted in 1906-07, clearly refer to the shooting incident and its emotional aftermath.
In 1903-04 Munch exhibited in Paris where the newly emerging luminaries, famous for their bold false colours, probably saw his works and may have been inspired by them. When they held their own exhibition in 1906, they invited Munch, who exhibited his works alongside their own. After studying Rodin”s sculpture, Munch may have experimented with plasticine as an aid to design, but he produced very few sculptures. During this period Munch received numerous commissions for portraits and prints, which improved his usually precarious financial situation. In 1906 he painted the scenery for a play by Ibsen at the small Kammerspiele, the Deutsches Theater in Berlin, where The Life Carpet was hung. The theatre director Max Reinhardt later sold it and it is now in the Nationalgalerie in Berlin. After an earlier period of landscapes, in 1907 he again turned his attention to human figures and situations.
By the autumn of 1908 Munch”s anxiety, combined with alcohol overconsumption and fighting, had worsened. As he later wrote, “My condition was tending toward insanity.” Suffering from delusions and feelings of persecution, he was admitted to Daniel Jacobson”s clinic. Munch”s treatment over the next eight months included diet and “electroshock” (a treatment of the time for nervous conditions, not to be confused with electroshock. His stay in the hospital stabilized his personality, and after his return to Norway in 1909 his work took on more color and became less pessimistic. Further improving his mood, his work was eventually accepted by the Christiania public and museums began to buy his works. He was named a Knight of the Royal Order of St. Olaf “for services to art”. His first American exhibition was held in 1912 in New York.
As part of his recovery, Dr. Jacobson advised Munch to associate only with good friends and to avoid public drinking. Munch followed the advice and produced many high-quality full-length portraits of friends and patrons – candid portraits without flattery. He also created landscapes and scenes of people at work and at play, using a new optimistic style – broad, loose brushstrokes of vivid colour with frequent use of white space and rarely black – with only occasional references to his morbid subjects. With a larger income, Munch was able to purchase several properties, which provided new subjects for his works and enabled him to eventually support his family.
The outbreak of World War I found Munch with divided loyalties, as he said “All my friends are German but I love France”. In the 1930s his German patrons, many of them Jewish, lost their fortunes and some their lives during the rise of the Nazi movement. Munch found Norwegian printers to replace the Germans who printed his graphic works. Given his poor health history in 1918 Munch felt fortunate to have survived a wave of Spanish flu, the global pandemic of that year.
Munch spent most of the last two decades of his life in solitude on his almost uninhabited estate in Eskeli, Skåyen, Oslo. Many of his last paintings celebrate rural life, including some in which he used his workhorse “Rousseau” as a model. Without any effort Munch attracted a steady stream of female models, which he painted as the subject of many nude works. He probably had sexual relations with some of them. Munch occasionally left his home to paint commissioned murals, such as those he did for the Freia chocolate factory.
Until the end of his life Munch continued to paint self-portraits incessantly, adding to the cycle of self-reflection in his life. In the 1930s and 1940s, the Nazis labeled Munch”s work as degenerate art, along with the work of Picasso, Klee, Matisse, Paul Gauguin and many other artists of the time, and removed all 82 of his works from German museums. Adolf Hitler announced in 1937 “As far as we are concerned, these barbarians and stutterers of the art of the prehistoric Stone Age culture can return to the caves of their ancestors and there apply their primitive international scratchings.”
In 1941 the Germans invaded Norway and the Nazi Party took over the government. Munch was 76 years old. With almost a complete collection of his works on the second floor of his house, Munch lived in fear of its confiscation by the Nazis. 71 of his works already confiscated by the Nazis had been returned to Norway through purchase by collectors (the other 11 were never recovered), such as The Scream and The Sick Child, and were also hidden by the Nazis.
Munch died at his home in Ekelli near Oslo on 23 January 1944, about a month before his 80th birthday. His Nazi-orchestrated funeral was a hint to Norwegians that he was a Nazi sympathizer, a kind of appropriation of the independent artist. The city of Oslo bought the estate in Ekelli from Munch”s heirs in 1946 and his house was demolished in 1960.
When Munch died, his remaining works were bequeathed to the city of Oslo, which founded the Munch Museum in Tejen in 1963. The museum has a collection of about 1,100 paintings, 4,500 drawings and 15,000 prints, the largest collection of his works in the world. The Munch Museum operates as his official foundation. It is active in opposing copyright infringement, as well as for the clearance of his works, such as the use of Munch”s Scream in an M&M advertising campaign in 2006.
Munch”s art was highly individualized and he taught very little. His individual symbolism was much more personal than that of other symbolist painters, such as Gustave Moreau and James Ensor. Munch was still very influential on the German Expressionists, who followed his philosophy of “I do not believe in art that is not the forced result of Man”s impulse to open his heart.” Many of his paintings, such as The Scream, have universal appeal in addition to their very personal meaning.
Munch”s works are now exhibited in many major museums and galleries in Norway and abroad. His hut, the Happy House, was granted to the municipality of Osgórdstrand in 1944 and is now a small Munch Museum. The interior has been preserved exactly as he left it.
A version of The Scream was stolen from the National Gallery in Oslo in 1994. In 2004 another version, along with one of Madonna, was stolen from the Munch Museum in a daring daylight robbery. Eventually all were recovered but the paintings stolen in the 2004 robbery were extensively damaged, but were meticulously restored and are on display again. Three works by Munch were stolen from the Refsnes Gods Hotel in 2005. They were soon recovered, although one of them was damaged during the theft.
In October 2006 the color woodcut Two People. The Solitary (To mennester. De ensomme) set a new record for prints when it sold at an Oslo auction for 8.1 million kroner (equivalent to 1.3 million euros in 2021). It also set a record for the highest price at auction in Norway. On 3 November 2008, the Vampire painting set a new record for his paintings when it sold for $38,162,000 at Sotheby”s in New York.
Munch”s figure appears on the Norwegian 1000 krona banknote, along with images inspired by his artistic work.
In February 2012 a major exhibition on Munch (Edvard Munch. The Modern Eye) opened at the Schirn Kunsthalle in Frankfurt. The exhibition was opened by Mette-Marit, Princess of Norway.
In May 2012 The Scream sold for US$119.9 million, making it the second most expensive work of art ever sold at open auction. (it was surpassed in November 2013 by Lucian Freud”s Three Studies, which sold for US$142.4 million).
In 2013, four of Munt”s paintings were depicted on a series of stamps by Norwegian Post to commemorate the 150th anniversary of his birth in 2014.
On 14 November 2016 a version of Munch”s Girls on the Bridge sold for US$54.5 million at Sotheby”s New York, the second highest price achieved for one of his paintings.
In April 2019, the British Museum hosted the exhibition Edvard Munch: Love and Anxiety, which included 83 works of art and a rare original print of The Scream.
University of Aula
In 1911, the final competition for the decoration of the large walls of the Aula (Assembly Hall) of the University of Oslo was held between Munch and Emanuel Vigeland. The event is known as the ”Aula controversy”. In 1914 Munch was finally commissioned to decorate the Aula and the project was completed in 1916. This important work of Norwegian monumental painting includes 11 paintings covering 223 m2. The Sun, History and Alma Mater are the main works in this sequence. Munch stated: “I wanted the decorations to form an integrated and independent world of ideas and I wanted their visual expression to be both distinctively Norwegian and universally human.” In 2014 it was estimated that Aula”s paintings were worth at least 500 million kroner (50 million euros).