Edvard Munch self-portraits

Another artist bridging the C19th and C20th is Edvard Munch (1863 – 1944). He was a Norwegian Symbolist painter and printmaker, an important forerunner of the Expressionist movement. You could be forgiven for thinking that he only ever produced one painting, the famous and disturbing The Scream (though he actually painted several versions of this between 1893 and 1910), but the fact is that Munch was another prolific painter of self-portraits.  The Scream is part of a series The Frieze of Life, in which Munch explored the themes of life, love, fear, death, melancholia, and anxiety – issues much reflected in Munch’s own life and self-portraits.

In 1908, Edvard Munch had an anxiety attack and was hospitalized. He had a nervous breakdown. That was said to have been brought on by heavy drinking and depression. He did recover after he had an electroshock treatment. That is when his art went under and extreme change.

To the end of his life, Munch continued to paint unsparing self-portraits, adding to his self-searching cycle of his life and his unflinching series of snapshots of his emotional and physical states.
In the 1930s and 1940s, the Nazis labelled Munch's work "degenerate art” (along with Picasso, Paul Klee, Matisse, Gauguin, and many other modern artists) and removed his 82 works from German museums.

Before Munch died in January 1944, he had willed his large collection of pictures and un-catalogued biographical and literary notes to the City of Oslo. Consequently, the Munch Museum, dedicated in 1963, has a unique collection of Munch’s art and other material which illuminates all phases of his artistic process.