Democracy Dies in Darkness

In Sight | Perspective

Beyond 'The Scream,' painter Edvard Munch experimented with photography

January 29, 2018 at 9:00 AM

“Self-Portrait Wearing Glasses and Seated Before Two Watercolors” at Ekely, ca. 1930 (Edvard Munch/Courtesy of Munch Museum)

Though his face is perhaps more recognizable when rendered in paint, Norwegian artist Edvard Munch was also interested in using photography for self-portraiture. Among some of the earliest artists in history to turn a camera on himself, Munch was not married to technical form. He experimented with what might be seen as mistakes, such as unusual points of focus, distorted perspective, and using the ghosting effects possible with long exposure times. These effects were visually akin to some of his painting techniques.

Munch’s photographs dated from 1902 to 1910 and from 1927 to the mid-1930s, periods of physical and emotional stress for the artist that included a stay at the private Copenhagen clinic of Dr. Daniel Jacobson for a rest cure. He didn’t intend to exhibit his photographs. “I have an old camera with which I have taken countless pictures of myself, often with amazing results,” Edvard Munch said in 1930. “Some day when I am old, and I have nothing better to do than write my autobiography, all my self-portraits will see the light of day again.”

Edvard Munch and Rosa Meissner in Warnemünde, 1907 (Edvard Munch/Courtesy of Munch Museum)
“Self-Portrait in Profile Indoors in Åsgårdstrand,” ca. 1904 (Edvard Munch/Courtesy of Munch Museum)
“Self-Portrait at the Breakfast Table at Dr. Jacobson’s Clinic,” 1908-1909 (Edvard Munch/Courtesy of Munch Museum)
“Self-Portrait ‘à la Marat,’ Beside a Bathtub at Dr. Jacobson’s Clinic,” 1908-09 (Edvard Munch/Courtesy of Munch Museum)
“Self-Portrait with Housekeeper in Warnemünde,” 1907 (Edvard Munch/Courtesy of Munch Museum)
“Self-Portrait with Model for a National Monument,” Kragerø, 1909-10 (Edvard Munch/Courtesy of Munch Museum)
“Self-Portrait with Valise,” 1906 (Edvard Munch/Courtesy of Munch Museum)

These photographs are part of “The Experimental Self: Edvard Munch’s Photography” exhibition at the Scandinavia House  in New York until April 7, 2018.

More on In Sight:

Photography series explores mothers and daughters, and their relationships around the world

What is a portrait? A sense of our human connection to one another

Haunting portraits from a 19th century master photographer

In Sight is The Washington Post’s photography blog for visual narrative. This platform showcases compelling and diverse imagery from staff and freelance photographers, news agencies and archives. If you are interested in submitting a story to In Sight, please complete this form.

Chloe Coleman is a photo editor at The Washington Post working in Outlook and Foreign news focusing on The Americas, Europe and Russia. She is regular contributor to the In Sight blog. She joined the Post in 2014.

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