Graphic Novel: Munch

A new graphic novel explores the life, loves and major works of the Norwegian artist Edvard Munch

With its agonised expression of horror beneath a fervid orange sky, The Scream is one of the most famous images in Western art, endlessly imitated and parodied. When it comes to its painter Edvard Munch (1863-1944), however, The Scream is only a fragment of the story. Munch, a new translation of a graphic biography drawn and written by Steffen Kverneland, tells the rest.

Opening with the artist’s youthful travels to Paris and Berlin, Munch follows it's subject's life through dramas both romantic and familial, exploring a series of major paintings along the way. The result reveals a man more jovial and humane than the brooding melancholic of popular lore.

In researching the book, Kverneland travelled to the locations of Munch’s paintings and recaptured them in his own style. Photographic interjections follow Kverneland and his friend Lars Fiske on the trail. Much of the text was taken directly from Munch’s writings, retaining their original spelling errors and grammatical quirks.

Likely the most renowned visual artist in Norwegian history, Munch' lived in an era of unprecedented change, running from the invention of the telegraph to the outbreak of the Second World War. Initially vacillating between dour naturalism and airy impressionism, he soon forged his own style, taking the quest for truth that characterised the symbolist movement and applying it to personal, private moments. His masterpieces include the decadently sensual Madonna, the despair-ridden The Sick Child, the pastoral Girls on the Bridge, and a series of penetrating self-portraits.

Munch took Kverneland seven years to complete. In 2013, it won the Brage Prize for Non-Fiction, among Norway’s most prestigious literary honours, and it has now been translated into multiple languages. Original artwork from the book is currently on display at Oslo’s National Gallery.

Read more about graphic novels in Jocks&Nerds 18.