Edvard Munch Biography
Before Munch’s well-known breakdown in 1909, the great Norwegian artist threw himself into printmaking with a zeal rarely seen among history’s greatest artists: not only as a master printmaker in the tradition of Rembrandt, Goya, and Cassatt (among others), but as an innovator of striking originality whose influence on subsequent printmakers still reverberates, primarily but not exclusively in woodcut.
Edvard Munch prints began with drypoint in 1894, the first media he would master, as he seemed to have a natural aptitude for all accessible printmaking techniques. A few weeks later, he began working with etching and lithography. He could draw on-site at the artist gatherings at Zum Schwarzen Ferkal with a needle in his pocket and copper, which was perhaps the easiest material to work on (The Black Piglet, the famous watering hole to the Berlin Bohemia). Considering its ease of use and lack of chemicals, drypoint also made sense as an introduction to printmaking. The established themes from Munch’s The Frieze of Life series, which comprised some of his most well-known early paintings, such as The Scream, Jealousy, and Puberty, among others, were, nonetheless, his primary emphasis. When describing the drypoint version of Night in St. Cloud, his patron Julius Meier-Graefe (the most well-known German art historian of the time, the author of Dostoyevsky’s biography, and the one who first encouraged Munch to try his hand at printmaking) wrote: “Like all decent engravings,” (in this case drypoints/etchings), “these prints appear colourful, without any colour. If one cannot detect this impact, one must be blind or very well-educated. All of them have the same theme and are extraordinarily talented paintings, which