The Melancholy of Edvard Munch

munchDecember 2, 1863 – January 23, 1944, he was a Norwegian painter. He is regarded as a Symbolist and a forerunner of expressionism. He focused on themes of fear, anxiety, melancholy, and death. He did not believe in heaven, or other Christian themes or doctrines, as far as I know.

My intention is to reintroduce you to an artist that I highly esteem.  The challenge I suppose is to understand the issues that Munch discovers in his work. He clearly taps into the ‘angst’ of the modern man, and what he does perpetuates a mindset for our generation.

Obviously these paintings are just an introduction, and I understand that they are selective. I have refrained from any kind of interpretation, other than laying down a general principle–  to Munch, color is everything.

Munch was probably not a cheery person. He essentially was driven by anxiety through his whole life. It seems that he could be very ambitious. His classic work was “The Scream” which he made several versions to sell. He used different mediums to do this– tempera, lithograph and pastel. Interestingly, “The Scream” is a favorite target for art thefts. It captures the minds of every modern thinker.

Within our culture, “The Scream” is iconic. Warhol, Gary Larson, Dr. Who and even “The Simpsons” have cashed in on a parody of it.


“I painted the picture, and in the colors the rhythm of the music quivers. I painted the colors I saw.”

“Painting picture by picture, I followed the impressions my eye took in at heightened moments. I painted only memories, adding nothing, no details that I did not see. Hence the simplicity of the paintings, their emptiness.”

“For as long as I can remember I have suffered from a deep feeling of anxiety which I have tried to express in my art.”

“Disease, insanity, and death were the angels that attended my cradle, and since then have followed me throughout my life.”

The Scream, 1893
Munch’s best known painting ^


The Sick Child (1885)
Melancholy, 1894
Melancholy, 1894
Golgotha, 1900

The Scream

You’re probably familiar with Edvard Munch’s painting The Scream yesterday it sold at auction for 120 million dollars. It is a profound painting, but do you know its inspiration? From the venerable Wikipedia, a quote from Munch’s own diary, written January 22, 1892:

“I 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.”

“… an infinite scream passing through nature.”  That’s quite terrifying.  With this message, from those who know how things shall be.  We have to realize that ‘The Scream’ is a manifestation of a hellvalot of emptiness and confusion.  Once understood, we will try to move forward.  But the image of a man screaming on a pier, has ‘cut the nerve’ of our attempts to move ahead.

‘The Scream’ is like a razor blade, that is wielding an agenda that opens us up, and drives us to this place of desperation.  Rather than turn from the pain, we turn to the place where “we think we understand”.  But the panic and frightfulness are not easily subtracted out of our lives.  We try to advance, but are shackled by our own confusion.

Looking at this painting, we can identify with the ‘frozenness’ of the image.  We turn in refusal, for we understand the darkness.  We come to the place that we fully intend to open ourselves up.  But the captivity of our hearts becomes open and something that is available and accessible. It seems the ‘horror’ has an influence on our mental health.

‘The Scream’  becomes to be incredibly predictive.  Any strength we might have has become empty and hollow, we are left with confusion and disorientation.  The emptiness and desperation of being alone on the pier, puts us in a sense of lostness.  But this painting can lead us to God.  Jesus has taken our horror and absorbed it in Himself.


ybic, Bryan