A gifted Norwegian painter and
printmaker, Edvard Munch not only was his country's greatest artist, but
also played a vital role in the development of German expressionism. His
work often included the symbolic portrayal of such themes as misery,
sickness, and death. The Cry, probably his most familiar painting, is
typical in its anguished expression of isolation and fear.
Munch was born on Dec. 12, 1863, in Loten, Norway. He grew up in Christiania
(now Oslo) and studied art under Christian Krohg, a Norwegian naturalistic
painter. Munch's parents, a brother, and a sister died while he was still
young, which probably explains the bleakness and pessimism of much of his
work. Paintings such as The Sick Child (1886), Vampire (1893-94), and Ashes
(1894) show his preoccupation with the darker aspects of life.
Munch traveled to Paris in 1885, and his work began to show the influence of
French painters--first, the impressionists, and then the
postimpressionists--as well as art nouveau design. Like many young artists
Munch reacted against conventional behavior, and in 1892 he took part in a
controversial exhibit in Berlin. His circle of friends included several
writers, one of whom was the Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen. Munch
designed the sets for several of Ibsen's plays.
Between 1892 and 1908, Munch spent much of his time in Paris and Berlin,
where he became known for his prints--etchings, lithographs, and woodcuts.
After 1910 Munch returned to Norway, where he lived and painted until his
death. In his later paintings Munch showed more interest in nature, and his
work became more colorful and less pessimistic. Munch died in Ekely, near
Oslo, on Jan. 23, 1944. He left many of his works to the city of Oslo, which
built a museum in his honor.