Notes related to art and The Frieze of Life

By Edvard Munch / July, 10, 2013 / 0 comments

MM N 46, fol. 1r

In order to understand my remarks
about how I believed it would be a crime
for me to marry I will elucidate the following:
my maternal grandmother died of tuberculosis
My mother died of tuberculosis
as did her sister Hansine

My aunt who came to [live with]  us has apparently
been tubercular. Throughout her entire life she has
suffered from colds accompanied by blood-tinged sputum as well as
bronchitis. My sister Sofie died of tuberculosis

We other children suffered from severe colds
while growing up – I came to this world in poor health
was baptised at home and my father did not believe
that I would survive – I was forced to neglect school
almost entirely – Had continuous attacks
of violent colds illness
and rheumatic fever – Had profuse haemorrhaging and
blood-tinged sputum. My brother had weak
lungs and died of pneumonia as a young man

MM N 46, fol. 2r

My paternal grandfather the archdeacon died
of tuberculosis of the spine – Which  …  I
believe was the cause of my father’s morbid anxiety
and disposition – The likes of which
developed more and more in
us children

I consequently do not believe that my
art is morbid – as Scharfenberg and
many others believe. These are people who do not
understand the essence of art nor are they
familiar with art history

When I paint illness and misfortune
it is on the contrary a healthy release

It is a healthy reaction that
one can learn from and live by

MM N 46, fol. 3r

How I hit upon the idea to paint
friezes and murals

In my art I have sought
to explain to myself life
and its meaning –    I have also intended to help others
to understand their own lives

I have always worked best with
my paintings around me –

I arranged them together and felt
that some of the pictures were connected to
each other in content –

When they were positioned together there immediately
arose a resonance between them and
they became totally different than when [displayed] individually
It became a symphony

That is when I decided to paint friezes

© English translation by Francesca M. Nichols