Edvard Munch | Graphic Works from The Gundersen Collection

  • 7th April − 23rd September 2012 | Modern Two (Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art) | £7 (£5)

The Modern Life of the Soul

Munch suffered from serious childhood illness and continued to be plagued by both ill-health and depression during his adult life. ‘I have been given a unique role to play on this earth’, he wrote, ‘… given to me by a life filled with sickness, ill-starred circumstances and my profession as an artist. It is a life that contains nothing even resembling happiness.’ His introversion and preoccupation with mortality is often apparent in his confessional self-portraits. This is particularly true of his first self-portrait print, made in 1895, aged just 32 years old, in which he included a skeleton arm that acts as a momento mori (reminder of death).

Though Munch never married, women, love and the relationship between woman and man are recurring themes in his work. Female figures appear in many guises: from sister and mother to lover and seductress. Munch made portraits of women he knew personally, such as Eva Mudocci as well as using professional models, and frequently, his depictions of women are highly symbolic, as is seen in Woman in Three Stages. In his images of couples, the line between attraction and repulsion often appears ambiguous. Conflicting emotions suggested in works such as Vampire reflect Munch’s unease about the duality of man’s relationship to woman, in which man longs to abandon himself to love, but fears losing control.

Next: Anxiety of Life and Death