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Edvard Munch was a Norwegian artist who came to fame in the early 20th century. Munch was one of a new generation of painters involved with the Expressionist and Symbolist art movements. Although best known for his pictures and prints, not so well known are the 4,000+ drawings that are a part of his works.
The drawings allowed Munch to record much of his ideas and thoughts in his sketchbooks and notebooks. During his long career, Munch was someone who was always drawing and did so wherever he was. He recorded them in sketchbooks and notebooks. They provide a record of his ideas and thoughts as well as ideas for some of his best-known paintings. The illustrations offer a valuable insight into the artist. Although some of the drawings are in private and public collections, the vast majority are in the Munch Museum's collection.
It was not just in the studio where he did his drawings. He also drew on journeys and outdoors where he captured animals, nature, architecture and people. Munch’s drawings cover a wide variety of themes. The one thing that they all have in common is in that they are relaxed and informal.
The Sketchbooks and Notebooks
The drawings by Edvard Munch were not all done on loose sheets of paper. Many of his illustrations captured the visual and imaginary world around him. They are contained in, at least, 170 sketchbooks and notebooks. Although Munch’s drawings cover many different themes, they embrace three specific areas.
Travel: Munch travelled widely throughout his long career staying in places such as Paris, Berlin and Kristiania. In his journey’s Munch drew a mixture of towns and buildings, people, landscapes, and townscapes. Many say that they reflect the sort of things that a tourist might capture on his journey. Later in his travels and the place he stayed, Munch’s drawings record what he experienced and the people he saw.
Studio: Not all of Munch’s drawings were about his journeys. He used larger books to record sketches and notes in the studio. A lot of them, however, are on loose sheets of paper. For Munch, the drawings he did in his studio were a way for him to maintain his skills through repetition. The theme for many of his studio sketchbook drawings is of portraits and nudes.
Ideas: The drawings in Munch's sketchbooks and notebooks did not just reflect his travels, the places where he stayed and his time in the studio. His sketchbooks and notebooks provided him with a bank of ideas. The books allowed Munch to develop his ideas for future compositions. For example, Munch’s sketchbooks record several drawings that formed the basis of his most famous painting, The Scream. Apart from ideas for his pictures, several of his sketchbooks contain illustrations for plays by Henrik Ibsen.
Viewing the Drawings
Being able to see Munch’s many drawings is not easy given that he captured them in his sketchbooks and notebooks. His drawings are not as widely known as some of his paintings. Only a small number of Munch’s drawings have been on display in exhibitions.
With about 90% of the drawings in their collection, the Munch Museum undertook a project to photograph and digitise their entire collection. In doing this, they did not stop at just their collection of drawings; they also included those from other museums as well as private collections. The aim was to open up the drawings to a broader audience. The museum has made the entire digital collection available online for free. Being available online, it offers people from around the world the chance to view and study Edvard Munch’s drawings.