Cover image for Munch in his own words
Munch in his own words
Tøjner, Poul Erik.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Munich ; New York : Prestel, [2001]

Physical Description:
213 pages, 11 unnumbered pages : illustrations ; 29 cm
General Note:
Contains biography (p. 212-213).
Personal Subject:
Subject Term:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
ND773.M8 T6 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area-Oversize

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"Just as Leonardo da Vinci studied the recesses of the human body and dissected cadavers, I try to dissect souls" said Edvard Munch (1863-1944), Norway's greatest artist and tortured genius. In this ground-breaking new study Munch's own soul is laid bare through the first English translation and analysis of diaries, literary sketches, and letters, presented together with his most important artistic works.

Preserved in the archives of the Munch Museum in Oslo, to which they were presented by the artist himself, Munch's writings give a unique insight into one of the most fascinating artistic minds of the twentieth century. Munch was as influenced by the literary and philosophical context of turn-of-the-century Europe as he was by his artistic milieu, and by his own admission, several of his major works began as literary sketches.

Beautifully illustrated with drawings, paintings, and Munch's own photography, this book presents an intimate portrait of the artist's life -- the early death of his mother, his childhood illnesses, his tragic love affair -- through his own philosophical and literary pieces. Interweaving Munch's artistic and literary experiences, these texts provide a commentary on his works and personal philosophy, on the works of his contemporaries (Van Gogh among others), and on the sensibilities of his friends and family. Expertly contextualised by Poul Erik Tojner Munch: In His Own Words brings the world of the artist vividly to life.

Author Notes

Poul Erik Tojner is a critic and editor on the weekly newspaper Weekendavisen in Copenhagen. He has studied philosophy and literature at the University of Copenhagen and has written a PhD on Soren Kierkegaard. His main interests as a writer are the visual arts, poetry and philosophy.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 4

Booklist Review

The bleak, wavy figure in Munch's most recognizable painting, The Scream, seems hesitant. The oval mouth hangs open as if caught in mid-breath. Judging from the painting alone, one is not quite sure whether this figure is inhaling or exhaling, whether it is recoiling, gasping in shock, or simply wailing, as the title infers. Similarly, this book gathers Munch's written words and juxtaposes them with his paintings. Although many of the vignettes and blank verse poems are autobiographical, what they say does not shed new light on Munch's paintings. Instead, they act like the distinctly contrasted backgrounds found in much of his work, where bright reds, yellows, and whites are tempered and nearly made gloomy by the addition of a subtle darkening layer. Almost like a chill or a hot flash, his dreamlike stories and acute existential observations intensify the fever of his life and work. This wonderful volume, littered with color plates, serves as a well-balanced introduction and, at the same time, adds a new depth for those already familiar with Munch's work. --Jeffrey Snowbarger

Publisher's Weekly Review

Director of the well-known Louisiana Museum of Modern Art outside Copenhagen, Danish art and architecture critic Tojner (Knud Holscher: Architect and Industrial Designer) has assembled a selection of texts by Norwegian modernist Edvard Munch (1863-1944), whose most famous work is The Scream. Visually, the book is up to Prestel's usual standard, with images of Munch's tortured men and women coming through sharply and clearly. But while chapters like "Munch and His Own Words," "The Nature of Art, and that of the Artist," and "Munch and Other People" have helpful short prefaces by Tojner, they present insurmountable problems that should make any librarian or art fan think twice. The translators, barely credited in minuscule print on the copyright page, make an impossible hash of the text: "Tulla Larsen and Munch travel round Europe together or on each other's tail" is just one example of poor idiom control. The meaning of Tojner pronouncements like "When Munch paints houses, they have faces; when he paints people, their bodies are tattooed with points of contact with the surrounding world" seems hopelessly obscure. And there are clumsy and facile paradoxes that seem at least partly the author's doing, as when Munch is characterized as painting his subjects "at exactly the right moment, capturing a kind of taciturn eloquence." Munch was an ill-tempered misanthrope whose writings are unlikely to attract the kind of sympathy inspired by Van Gogh's letters, but when the ever-anguished artist is allowed to speak for himself, the results can have a certain nasty, brusque horse sense, such as this discussion with a country neighbor: " `Why don't you paint small paintings that can be sold, like everybody else,' asks my milkman. Look after your cows, I said. You know something about that." (May) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Norwegian artist Edvard Munch (1863-1944), considered one of the leading practitioners of Expressionism, is here presented in the context of his writings and personal experiences. Tmjner, an author and current director of the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in Denmark, traces Munch's artistic development through the examination of his personal papers, including sketches, diaries, and letters that are here translated into English for the first time. These writings also show how Munch was affected by the early loss of his mother, his love affairs, and his interaction with friends and fellow artists, as well as by the literary trends and philosophy of pre-World War I Europe. This highly personal approach allows us to see the forces at work on Munch and how they were expressed in his art. This beautifully produced and well-illustrated book belongs in most art libraries. Martin Chasin, Adult Inst., Bridgeport, CT (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

This publication in English of passages from Munch's Norwegian journals is to be celebrated. For years Munch wrote down autobiographical and imaginary sketches and ruminations on everything: art, religion, science, gambling, family, love, hate, cosmology, taxes. These illustrated translations by Jennifer Lloyd will please the public and academic audience. In Norwegian, the challenging introduction by Poul Erik Trjner, director of the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in Denmark, is refreshing, even when unpersuasive. Unfortunately, the introduction as translated into English abbreviates the opening chapters, and it omits names (Nietzsche, Jappe Nielsen, Tulla Larsen, Przybyszewski, Adolf Loos) and a comparison to Veronica's veil regarding Munch's quarrel with varnished surfaces. A "Spanish" writer becomes a "Danish" writer; 1908, the year of Munch's admission to the clinic in Copenhagen, becomes 1909. Omissions and simplifications dull analysis of Self-portrait with Cigarette and the "horse-treatment" of canvases weathered in the elements. Munch's own texts are well translated, though added words and punctuation take energy out of his prose, as in the story behind The Seam and the erotic drama on page 187. Nevertheless, as a first translation of the journal into English this offering is indispensable and highly recommended. General readers; undergraduates through professionals. J. G. Holland Davidson College