Stepping into the Painting: Edvard Munch


Marisa Vizzoca, Writer

Paintings. What do they really consist of? Many paintings seem to only consist of paint, a reference, and a board to paint on. But what if there was more than just a few simple objects? Painting is more than just putting down paint onto a canvas. It’s taking what you can’t seem to put into words and letting it come out through your fingertips. Not just sitting in front of a few objects and painting them, but really observing the emotion that’s present around them. What colors are mostly there? How do you feel when you see that object? How do other people seem to react around it? 

Psychology plays a big role in how an artist perceives things. It’s not just a face or a landscape, it’s how your body feels. Famous artist Edvard Munch didn’t just paint what was in front of him, he painted what he saw. From an early age he struggled with family life, both his mother and sister died when he was young and his father blamed it on “divine punishment.” Because of the unstableness and losses in his life from a young start he developed anxiety, breakdowns, human vulnerability, and more. 

In the late 1800’s he created a painting called “The Sick Child” to represent the time when he lost his sister. Depending on the artist, the brushstrokes can make an impact on the art. In “The Sick Child” there aren’t a lot of smooth brush strokes because losing a child or loved one isn’t a smooth part of one’s life. The rough brushstrokes portray all of the struggles he was facing with his anxiety and vulnerability because of this tragedy. However this wasn’t the only painting where he showed his mental state. 

Most people don’t realize that one of the most famous paintings, “The Scream” isn’t just a person screaming, it’s a mental illness. Munch explained, “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.” What Edvard Munch saw was something that wasn’t right out in the open for everyone else. For Edvard Munch, he was suffering from hallucinations, so to him the blue sky was starting to turn all sorts of different types of red, and he was so scared to the point where he screamed. Hence where we get the painting from. Paintings can be memories, they don’t have to be in the moment. 

A little down the line, he stopped using his art to portray his grief, distress, anxiety, and depression—all the bad things he was experiencing, and used it to express the good. This was known as the “Spring Ploughing” and can be seen differently. Edvard Munch decided to take a break from painting all of the negative emotions with dull colors and turned to the color wheel to the brighter colors to focus on all the positives. Sometimes in life we should paint what we really see instead of what’s in front of us. In the words of Munch himself, “Without fear and illness, I could never have accomplished all I have.”