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Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
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Edvard Munch was able to build an international following through the dispersal of his printed artworks, and these were produced from a unique technical approach.

This was an artist who loved to be in touch with nature and he incorporated this theme into his lithographical production. Munch would paint directly onto large stones and then use a chemical process with acid in order to output the desired prints. The last stage would normally be completed by a specialist printer but he liked to be on hand at all times, leading the creative decision making, such as which colours to use and in what order. He would get a great level of personal connection by working in this way and although he is far more famous as a painter, his lithograph prints would become an important tool during his own lifetime. Another benefit to his printed work is how it has allowed many more art institutions to be able to display some of his art within their own collections, by greatily increasing the number of artworks available as well as offering them at much lower valuations.

Munch would develop a strong bond with his physical artworks and even once described them as his children. It was therefore necessary for him to find a way of promoting himself abroad but without losing these items from his own possession. The reproduced prints offered the perfect solution and he was now able to spread his name outside the Norwegian boundaries whilst keeping his creations close to hand. These would fill his studios, his home, and even his garden by the latter part of his career. Upon his death it would have been quite a task to collate and document all of these artworks, but it is also pleasing to know that he never had to part with any artworks except in special circumstances. In terms of his lithographs, he would be able to keep the original stones, though in some cases he would gift them to close friends.

The majority of his lithographs were produced between the period of around 1890-1910, during which he would share his time between his native Norway, Paris and Berlin. These different locations allowed him to mix with all manner of different artists and from this he learnt a number of new techniques around the printing process. Whilst he would continue to employ others for that task, his imagination around what was possible would greatily widen because of his experiences in different parts of Europe. There was also a huge level of collaboration going on in Paris at that time, with all manner of different artists moving to the city in order to exchange ideas, with the ambition of bringing a more modern and contemporary approach into the art world. Some of these artists would live together and socialise with each other on a daily basis, further encouraging the spread of creative thinking.

The artist would make lithographic prints of some of his most famous paintings in order to help promote his career, as well as sometimes expanding upon the same theme, but with a different composition. He also found this medium suitable to his exploration of negative emotions such as anxiety, sickness and addiction, with the naturally dark colours being entirely suitable. This heavy contrast and celebration of the colour black was very much in vogue across Europe at the time, and so his prints were easy to sell. He would later switch from working directly on stone to actually produce a type of transfer that could then be carried across to the stone's surface and he is believed to continue to work with this medium for the rest of his career, as well as producing a number of woodcuts and also etchings. The artist worked hard to keep the original items from which the prints were developed, and although some would inevitably be lost, many still exist and can be exhibited alongside the resultant prints as a means to explaining visually the nature of each process.

The Lonely Ones by Edvard Munch (Lithographic Print)