Edvard Munch

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Edvard Munch, 1921.

Edvard Munch (12 December 186323 January 1944) was a Norwegian Symbolist painter and printmaker, and an important forerunner of the Expressionistic art movement.

Quotes of Edvard Munch[edit]

  • I am at work on a girl. It is quite simple a girl getting up on the edge of her bed and pulling on her stockings. The bed is whitish, and in addition there are white sheets, a white nightdress, a bedside table with a white cover, white curtains and a blue wall. [as model for his painting 'Morning', 1884]
    • In his letter to Olav Paulsen, September 1884; as quoted in Edvard Much – behind the scream, Sue Prideaux; Yale University Press, New Haven and London, 2007, p. 53

  • Life here [in Paris, 1885] is quite different. You hardly ever see a dog on a lead; you come across little wagons being pulled by dogs that are often so small that you can’t imagine how on earth they manage to shift such enormous weights. You see shepherdesses in the middle of the street herding goats and sometimes playing on their flutes. I think I’ll go to the Louvre and the Salon today.
    • In his letter (1885); as quoted in Edvard Munchs Brev, Familien, Oslo: Tanum, 1949, p. 57

  • No longer shall I paint interiors with men reading and women knitting. I will paint living people who breathe and feel and suffer and love.
    • In his text: 'Impressions from a ballroom, New Year's Eve in St. Cloud' also known as 'The St. Cloud Manifesto' (1889)

  • The point is that one sees things at different moments with different eyes. Differently in the morning then in the evening. The way in which one sees also depends on one’s mood.. ..coming in from a dark bedroom in the morning into the sitting room one will, for example, see everything in a bluish light. Even the deepest shadows are topped with bright light. After a while one will accustom oneself to the light and the shadows will be deeper and everything will be seen more sharply. If an atmosphere of this kind is being painted it won’t do merely to sit and gaze at everything 'just as one sees'. One must paint precisely the fleeting moment of significance – one must capture the exact experience separating that significant moment from the next – the exact moment when the motif struck one.. .In some circumstances a chair may seem to be just as interesting as a human being. In some way or another it must have caught the interest in which case the onlooker's interest must somehow be engaged in the same way. It's not the chair that should be painted, but what the person has felt at the sight of it [written in Saint Cloud, 1890 - perhaps related to the chair of Vincent van Gogh
    • In: T 2770, as quoted in Edvard Much – behind the scream, Sue Prideaux; Yale University Press, New Haven and London, 2007, pp. 83-84

  • When seen as a whole, art derives from a person’s desire to communicate himself to another. I do not believe in an art which is not forced into existence by a human being’s desire to open his heart. All art, literature, and music must be born in your heart’s blood. Art is your heart’s blood.
    • Manuscript (1891); as quoted in Edvard Munch and the Physiology of Symbolism (2002) by Shelley Wood Cordulack

  • was walking along a path with two friends — the sun was setting — suddenly the sky turned blood red — I paused, feeling exhausted, and leaned on the fence — there was blood and tongues of fire above the blue-black fjord and the city — my friends walked on, and I stood there trembling with anxiety — and I sensed an infinite scream passing through nature.
    • Quote in an entry in his Diary (22 January 1892), on the experience which inspired his famous painting, '(The Scream)' ('Shrik'), originally titled: 'Der Schrei der Natur' ('The Cry of Nature')

  • Realism's 'truth' as embodied in painting and literature now solely consists of things capable of being seen by the eye or heard by the ear. Realism is concerned only with the external shell of nature. People content with the discoveries they have made ignore the fact that there are other things to be discovered, even broader avenues to be explored. They have found bacteria, but not what they consist of. [quote of 1892)
  • OKK 1760 (Nice, January 1892); as quoted in Edvard Much – behind the scream, Sue Prideaux; Yale University Press, New Haven and London, 2007, p. 81

  • No one in art has yet penetrated as far [as Dostoyevsky into the mystical realms of the soul, towards the metaphysical, the subconsciousness, viewing the external reality of the world as merely a sign, a symbol of the spiritual and metaphysical.
    • As quoted in Edvard Munch, Hans Dedekam, Kristiana 1909, p. 4

  • When I write these notes, it is not to describe my own life. I am writing a study of the soul as I observe myself closely and use myself as an anatomical testing-ground. It would therefore be wrong to look on these notes as confessions. I have chosen – in accordance with Søren Kierkegaard – to split the work into two parts; the painter and his distraught friend the poet. Just as Leonarda da Vinci studied the recesses of the body and dissected human cadavers, I try from self-scrutiny to dissect what is the universal in the soul [written after 1908]
  • In: The Mad Poet’s Diary, T 2734

  • My ideas developed under the influence of the bohemians or rather under Hans Jager [leader of the 'Kristiania Bohemia' since 1883]. Many people have mistakenly claimed that my ideas were formed under the influence of Strindberg and the Germans.. ..but that is wrong. They had already been formed by then.
    • Quote in a draft letter to Broby-Johansen, Berlin, 11 December 1926, Munch Museum

  • The strange light illuminated all those night-time meetings that took place in every imaginable sort of café; the lips mouthing defiant words, heedless of restraint or consequence, often overbearing and brutal as only Norwegians can be, vast shadows of impotence misery and shabbiness – spirits training for fulfillment, striving in vain to be great, complete, unique. [Munch describes the environment and atmosphere of the Norwegian bohemia in Kristiana, where he himself lived and worked when he was about 23] And at the center of all the faces there would be Jaeger, whose logic was as sharp as a scythe and as cold as an icy blast..
    • In: Edvard Munch, Pola Gaugain, Oslo Aschehoug, 1933, p. 15

  • One evening I came to have a discussion with my father on the subject how long unbelievers are tormented in Hell. I maintained that no sinner could be so guilty that God would let him suffer longer than a thousand years. Father said that they would suffer for a thousand times a thousand years. We would not give up the argument. I became so irritated.. .I returned home to make my piece with him. He had gone to bed so I quietly opened his bedroom door. He was on his knees in front of the bed, praying.. .I closed the door and went to my own room but I could not get to sleep.. ..eventually I took out my drawing block and started to draw. I drew my father kneeling by his bed, with the light from the bedside lamp casting a yellow glow over his nightshirt. I fetched my paintbox and colored it in. Finally I achieved the right pictorial effect, and I was able to go to bed happy and slept soundly.
    • In: 'Close Up of a Genius', Rolf E. Stenersen; Sem and Stenersen, Oslo 1946, pp. 10 – 11

  • Could only have been painted by a madman.
    • His inscription, written in pencil, between the red clouds on at least one of his paintings of The Scream (c. 1893 - 1910), as quoted in Edvard Munch: The Man and His Art (1977) by Ragna Thiis Stang, p. 106

  • My art is rooted in a single reflection: why am I not as others are? ..my art gives meaning to my life.
    • Quote in Edvard Munch: Psyche, Symbol and Expression (2001) by Jeffery Howe

  • From my rotting body, flowers shall grow and I am in them and that is eternity.
    • Quoted in Sustainable Landscape Construction: A Guide to Green Building Outdoors (2007) by William Thompson and Kim Sorvig, p. 30

  • Grey dawn was seeping into the sick room [around Christmas 1867, Munch was almost dying then and spitting blood when he was 13; but he recovered]. I lay in the middle of the bed with my hands outside the bedclothes, looking straight ahead. Now I was in a pact with God. I had promised to serve him if I survived, if he allowed me to escape the tuberculosis. Now I could never be as before.
    • T 2771, as quoted in Edvard Much – behind the scream, Sue Prideaux; Yale University Press, New Haven and London, 2007, p. 26

  • There must be no more pictures covered in brown sauce [c. 1880, when Munch started to paint series of landscapes in fresh colors]
    • a written note; as quoted in Edvard Much – behind the scream, Sue Prideaux; Yale University Press, New Haven and London, 2007, p. 41

  • Far out there – that
Soft line where the air meets
The sea – it is as incomprehensible as
existence – it is incomprehensible as
death – as eternal as longing.
    • N 613, as quoted in Edvard Much – behind the scream, Sue Prideaux; Yale University Press, New Haven and London, 2007, p. 79

  • My afflictions belong to me and my art - they have become one with me. Without illness and anxiety, I would have been a rudderless ship.. .My art is really a voluntary confession and an attempt to explain to myself my relationship with life - it is, therefore, actually a sort of egoism, but I am constantly hoping that through this I can help others achieve clarity.
    • As quoted in 'From my rotting body, flowers shall grow, and I am in them, and that is eternity', Potter P. Emerg Infect Dis, 2011

  • it was the period I think of as the age of the pillow.. .What I wanted to bring out - is that which cannot be measured - I wanted to bring out the tired movement in the eyelids - the lips must look as though they are whispering - she must look as though she is breathing - I want life - what is alive. [on his painting 'The sick Child']
    • As quoted in 'From my rotting body, flowers shall grow, and I am in them, and that is eternity', Potter P. Emerg Infect Dis, 2011

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