Edvard Munch’s Life in Photos

Zuzanna Stańska 12 December 2022 min Read

Naturally, Edvard Munch is best known for his paintings. However, he was also one of the first of the generation of painters who dabbled in amateur photography. When Munch died in 1944, he left 183 photographs in his house. Here we present some of them.

Edvard Munch, "Self-Portrait 'A la Marat' at Dr. Jacobson's Clinic in Copenhagen" (1908-1909)

The theme of Marat in a bathtub was important for Munch, as he compared the history of the French revolutionary leader to his own. The story of Marat’s murder by Charlotte Corday bears only the remotest resemblance to that of Munch and his long-time lover Tulla Larsen, but evidently it was enough for Munch’s symbol-stretching mind. The story of Tulla Larsen is not spectacular – she just left Munch and married his younger colleague.

Edvard Munch, Self-Portrait Naked in the Garden at Asgardstrand, 1903

Edvard Munch’s experimentation with photography began in 1902 when, aged nearly 40, he bought himself one of the most common amateur cameras of the time: a Kodak Bull’s-Eye no. 2. It was a very simple device.

Edvard Munch at the Beach in Warnemünde, 1907, The Munch Museum, Oslo

To create his photographic self-portraits, Munch had to release the shutter button himself, so he had to pose very close to the camera.

Self-Portrait with Rosa Meissner on the beach in Warnemünde, 1907

Some distortions of the photographic picture, along with the use of multiple exposures (which we can see, for example, in this photo with Rosa Meissner), and deliberate blurring, were part of what drew Munch to photography.

Munch saw photography as worthy an art form as painting, and in an article for the Norwegian magazine Kunst og Kultur, Munch wrote: “mechanical production made by a judicious hand can provide good results.”

Self-Portrait, 1906, The Munch Museum, Oslo

From the beginning, Munch concentrated on self-portraits. These fall into two groups:  those taken inside the studio, posing with his paintings, and those taken outdoors, holding the camera at arm’s length, which now could be called a “classical selfie.”

Edvard Munch in 1926

“I have learned a lot from photography…” said Edvard Munch near the end of his life. After 1926, a new formal mastery can be seen in his self-portraits. It reminds one of the preoccupations of avant-garde German photography that was then blooming. In those years, Munch even shot a few short amateur films.

Self-Portrait in Front of Two Watercolours II. Ekely c 1930



Black Matrilineage, Photography, and Representation: Another Way of Knowing, edited by Lesly Deschler Canossi and Zoraida Lopez-Diago, Leuven University Press, 2022 (cover image) Photography

Black Motherhood in Photography: Book Review of Black Matrilineage, Photography, and Representation

Black Matrilineage, Photography, and Representation: Another Way of Knowing by co-editors Lesly Deschler Canossi and Zoraida Lopez-Diago of the...

Jennifer S. Musawwir 27 February 2023

Henri Manuel, Marie Curie in her laboratory, located rue Cuvier, 1908, Musée Curie, Paris, France. Photography

Marie Curie – Portraits of the Double Nobel Prize Winner

Marie Skłodowska-Curie is arguably the most famous female scientist in history and one of the most accomplished scientists ever. Since she was a...

Jimena Escoto 11 February 2023

Arpita Shah Modern Muse Photography

Modern Muse: Arpita Shah’s Feminist Take on Mughal Portraiture

Staging an intervention in art history, and specifically in Indian miniature portraiture, Arpita Shah replaces male Mughal emperors with inspiring...

Guest Profile 28 November 2022

spirit victorian photography Photography

The Spectacle of Victorian Spirit Photography

Is seeing believing? In 19th-century London, this question captivated everyone who entered Frederick Hudson’s spirit photography studio—from...

Emily Snow 20 December 2022