Edvard Munch: Tragedy to Triumph
By Melissa Montgomery
Edvard munch was born in 1863 in the town of Loten in Norway. His parents were from entirely different backgrounds; his father, Christian, was a physician and his mother, Laura was descended from a family of sea captains and lumber merchants- peasant stock. Tuberculosis ran in her family and it would later claim the life of Edvard’s older sister at the age of 15. It was these differences and tragedies that were to shape the life and work of Edvard Munch, Norway’s most well known artist.
When Edvard was one year old the family moved from their country farm into town, to Akershus Fort in Kristiania (the name of the city Oslo- as it was called at that time). His father had been appointed medical officer there and the family moved into a big apartment. Edvard’ mother, Laura, gave birth to three more children there and gradually began to get weaker and weaker. Edvard grew up watching his dear mother fade away. Three siblings were born one year apart and even though Edvard’s father was now making enough money to move to a bigger apartment, Edvard’s’ mother knew she didn’t have long to live. She died in December of 1868. Laura’s sister, Karen took over and helped Edvard’s father with the household. Despite the tragedy of his mother dying, Edvard always looked back on his childhood and spoke of it fondly because of the influence of his Aunt Karen.
In 1875, financial troubles made the family move across town to a draughty smaller flat. Edvard’s father was now a private doctor and did not always charge his patients- he was compassionate and didn’t make them pay if they couldn’t. Unfortunately his family suffered because of this.
Aunt Karen was skilled at running the family and eventually moved in to help full time. She was the one who inspired her nephew to become an artist. She made collages out of moss and sold them in town. The other children started to do the same and this activity led to drawing. Karen encouraged them to keep their pictures and collages.
Edvard began to draw every day by the time he was twelve. In 1879 he entered Kristiania Technical College to study drawing. His father totally supported him as there were scholars, poets and artists on his side of the family. Edvard was absent from college a lot due to illness. In 1880, he made the decision to quit college and become a painter. He briefly attended the Royal School of Design but quit a year later, rented a studio with some other artists and began to live the artist life full time. In 1883 he took part in his first exhibition, the Autumn Exhibition. A painter named Fritz Thaulo, recognized Munch’s talent and offered to send him to Paris if Edvard’s father would share the cost. On his way to Paris, Edvard exhibited at the world’s fair in Antwerp. While in Paris he saw many great works of art. He studied everything in the Louvre. He returned to Norway more confident than ever. In 1886 Munch took part in the Artist’s Carnival and met many other artists who shared his viewpoint and passion for art. One in particular, Hans Jaeger, told Edvard to ‘paint his life’.
Edvard went back to Paris to study then moved to Berlin where he became well known for being a terrible artist. Ten years later, he was famous and being hailed in Berlin. Unfortunately the trappings of fame and fortune took their toll on him and he struggled throughout his life between depression, drinking and exhaustion. He lived in Paris again and finally settled in the country in Ekely, Norway for the remainder of his days. He died at home in 1944.
Relevant links: http://www.munch.museum.no/default.aspx?lang=en