Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863–1944). Golgotha, 1900. Oil on canvas. 80 x 120 cm (31 1/2 x 47 1/4 in.) Munch Museum, Oslo, MMM 36 (C) 2008 The Munch Museum / The Munch-Ellingsen Group / Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY

CHICAGO, IL.- Two potent myths have traditionally defined our understanding of the artist Edvard Munch: that he was mentally unstable, as his iconic work The Scream suggests, and that he was influenced by the contemporary art of France and Germany to the exclusion of his native Norway. The Art Institute’s exhibition Becoming Edvard Munch: Influence, Anxiety, and Myth aims to challenge and overturn these entrenched myths by presenting Munch’s paintings, prints, and drawings in relation to those of his European contemporaries.

Munch’s work has been frequently connected to his emotional pain and instability. However, when his art is considered in light of his personal diaries and letters and the writings of contemporary critics, a very different picture of the artist emerges. Contrary to the prevailing view, recent scholarship demonstrates that Munch was very much in control of his professional career, a savvy businessman keenly aware of how to manipulate the art market and shape popular opinion. Moreover, he built his art on specifically Norwegian pictorial traditions.

This rich exhibition brings together approximately 150 works, including 75 paintings and 75 works on paper by Munch and his peers, many rarely seen in the United States. It is organized around the following themes: the street, loneliness and solitude, love and sexuality, the bather, landscape, and finally, death and dying. By considering Munch’s work in relation to his peers—including Harriet Backer, James Ensor, Vincent van Gogh, Max Klinger, Christian Krohg, and Claude Monet—surprising connections are revealed.


Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863–1944). Evening on Karl Johan, 1892. Oil on canvas. 84.5 x 121 cm (33 1/4 x 47 5/8 in.) The Rasmus Meyer Collection, The Bergen Art Museum, RMS.M.245 (C) 2008 The Munch Museum / The Munch-Ellingsen Group / Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY.