• Artist: Edvard Munch
  • Creation date: (1886)
  • Object type: Painting

On display: Room 059 The Collection Exhibition - Edvard Munch becomes an artist


In the course of his long life, Munch painted a number of self-portraits. We can follow him through many of life’s vicissitudes, from a young and decadent artist to an elderly, sick man staring death in the face. (See p. 75.) These pictures afford us intimate insights into the artist’s life.

It is the arrogant and self-assured Bohemian we meet in this selfportrait from 1886. The artist was 22 years old at the time and at an early stage in his career. But despite his youthfulness, he was already being noticed among artistic circles in his home country.

The portrait shows us the radical ways in which Munch’s painting was developing in these years. Here he has used surface scratching, and the face seems enveloped in haze. This was a technique he also used in his most famous painting of the 1880s, The Sick Child from 1885–86. Later he would change his painting style in favour of a more flowing brushstroke.

The portrait was purchased by the National Gallery in 1938 with funds provided by Olaf Schou. Formerly it was owned by the lawyer Harald Nørregaard, who was married to the painter Aase Nørregaard, a close friend of Munch.

Text: Marit Ingeborg Lange

From "Edvard Munch in the National Museum", Nasjonalmuseet 2008, ISBN 978-82-8154-035-54


Edvard Munch

Visual artist, Painter, Graphic artist, Photographer, Drawing artist

Born 12.12.1863 in Løten, Hedmark, death 23.01.1944 in Oslo

Edvard Munch worked as an artist for over sixty years. He was creative, ambitious and hardworking. He produced nearly two thousand paintings, hundreds of graphic motifs and thousands of drawings. In addition, he wrote poems, prose and diaries. The Scream, Madonna, Death in the Sickroom and the other symbolist works from the 1890s have made him one of the most famous artists of our time.

"Don't become an artist!"

Edvard wanted to become an artist early on, and there was no doubt that he had talent. But his father refused to allow him to follow his dream, so Edvard began studying engineering. But already after one year he chose to defy his father, and switched from engineering college to the Norwegian National Academy of Craft and Art Industry in Kristiania, now Oslo.

A talented and provocative bohemian

It was obvious to everyone in the Norwegian art community that the young man showed rare talent. In 1883, at the age of 20, he debuted at Høstutstillingen (The Autumn Exhibition). In 1886, Munch became acquainted with author and anarchist Hans Jæger, a leading figure in the Kristiania bohemian community. The bohemian community convinced Munch that the arts had to renew themselves to reach people and to have relevance in their lives. In the same year he exhibited the painting The Sick Child. This generated debate!

Courage led to breakthrough

Some acclaimed The Sick Child a work of genius, while others deemed it unfinished and unworthy of exhibition. Today it is considered to mark Munch's breakthrough. It was here that demonstrated the independence and willingness to break fresh ground.

From this point until his final brush strokes, his artistic practice can be summed up in just word: experimentation. Munch did not care about established "rules" for so-called good art. His techniques in both painting and graphics were innovative.

From people's emotional life to agriculture and landscape

Henrik Ibsen's plays about humanity's existential challenges inspired Munch. Themes such as death, love, sexuality, jealousy and anxiety were central to his early images. Some themes sprang from personal experience. For example, Death in the Sickroom and The Sick Child are linked to his memory of his mother and sister's illnesses and early deaths.

After 1910, Munch chose a quieter and secluded life. At his own farms at Ekely in Oslo and in Hvitsten, he found entirely new motifs, such as agriculture, working life and landscapes. Man in the Cabbage Field is a typical example from this period.

Work info

Creation date:
Other titles:
Selvportrett (NOR)
Object type:
Materials and techniques:
Olje på lerret
  • Height: 33 cm
  • Width: 24.5 cm
  • Depth: 2 cm
Motif - type:
Kjøpt for Olaf Schous gave 1938
Inventory no.:
Part of exhibition:
Edvard Munch: Between the Clock and the Bed, 2017
Edv. Munchs Maleriudstilling, 1889
Ausstellung Edvard Munch, 1954
Edvard Munch. Symbols & Images, 1978 - 1979
Edvard Munch: Between the Clock and the Bed, 2018
Munch - Van Gogh, 2015 - 2016
Edvard Munch, 1987
Edvard Munch. The modern life of the soul, 2006
Edvard Munch, 2002 - 2003
Fyns Stiftsmuseums Edvard Munch udstilling, 1955
Ausstellung Edvard Munch, 1955
Edvard Munch: Between the Clock and the Bed, 2017 - 2018
Edvard Munch. Signs of Modern Art, 2007
Edvard Munch, 1987 - 1988
Edvard Munch. Det syke barn. Historien om et mesterverk, 2009
Munch by himself, 2005
Harald Nørregaards samling, 1938
Kunstforeningens Edvard Munch udstilling, 1955
Edvard Munch, 1927
Munch selv, 2005
Munch själv, 2005
Munch - Van Gogh, 2015
Wunderblock. Eine Geschichte der Moderne Seele, 1989
Munch 150, 2013
La biennale di Venezia, 1954
Edvard Munch, 1927
Munch blir «Munch» . Kunstneriske strategier 1880-1892, 2008 - 2009
The masterworks of Edvard Munch, 1979
Cataloguing level:
Single object
Owner and collection:
Nasjonalmuseet for kunst, arkitektur og design, The Fine Art Collections
Børre Høstland