Edvard Munch had a difficult and troubled life. The Norwegian painter lost his mother and two of his siblings. One of his sister’s was diagnosed with mental illness. Edvard himself was often ill as a child. Munch’s father was deeply religious, and often employed religion as a cudgel to batter his children. Munch wrote:
“My father was temperamentally nervous and obsessively religious—to the point of psychoneurosis. From him I inherited the seeds of madness. The angels of fear, sorrow, and death stood by my side since the day I was born.”
All of this had a profound influence on his art. Death and religion frequently appear in his deeply symbolic works:
One other feature of Edvard Munch’s art is his use of color to capture inner emtions. One of his most famous works, which he reproduced numerous times, is “The Scream”:
His description of the inspiration for these works is as vivid as the paintings.
One evening I was walking along a path, the city was on one side and the fjord below. I felt tired and ill. I stopped and looked out over the fjord—the sun was setting, and the clouds turning blood red. I sensed a scream passing through nature; it seemed to me that I heard the scream. I painted this picture, painted the clouds as actual blood. The color shrieked. This became The Scream (The Art Institue of Chicago)
He combines his sense of color, his surroundings and even sounds into “The Scream”. In describing an exhibit by Munch at The National Gallery in Washington D.C. Courtney Calvin writes:
Imagine if you could understand someone not just by what your eyes see in the physical world, but how your mind interprets this person. Would couples communicate better if they could wear their true feelings on the outside like an aura? What would this look like?
This is part of what made Edvard Munch a genius – his ability to use color to contemplate human emotions. Here are a few more of his amazing works:
You can see more of Edvard Munch’s work at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Their current exhibit “Edvard Munch: Between the Clock and the Bed” runs until October 9, 2017. Thanks to Artsy. More information and art by Edvard Munch on Wikiart.org, The Edvard Munch Museum in Oslo, and see an animated version of “The Scream” on my previous post.