Collections and research

Edvard Munch in the National Museum

Self-Portrait with Cigarette, 1895

Oil on canvas, 110.5 x 85.5 cm
NG.M.00470

© Nasjonalmuseet / Munch-museet / Munch-Ellingsen-gruppen / BONO 2010.
Foto: Jacques Lathion / Nasjonalmuseet

Edvard Munch has depicted himself with his face turned to the viewer. The artist’s face and hands are conspicuously emphasised and seem almost luminous against the dark, unarticulated background. For an artist, these parts of the body are especially significant. At the centre of the composition, one hand is raised to chest height, as if held to the heart. Although the artist seems to be gazing intensely at the viewer, he is looking no less into himself and his world. The artist is illuminated from below and together with the diffuse background and the smoke from the cigarette, this lends the picture a hint of mystery.

Munch was 31 when he painted this picture. A few years earlier he had been part of the circle that met at the café-bar “Zum schwarzen Ferkel” in Berlin. One central member of this group was August Strindberg, although no less important to Munch were the Polish poet and pianist Stanislaw Przybyszewski and his wife Dagny Juel. Przybyszewski contributed to the first monograph about Munch. Strindberg’s interest in mysticism and the occult and his thoughts about his own paintings may have been significant to Munch. Strindberg regarded himself as a medium, link, or conduit for what was captured on the canvas.

The painting was purchased from the artist in 1895.

EL