Edvard Munch continues his introspection with this self portrait which captures him holding a burning cigarette. The Whistler-esque dark tones are also highly typical of this artist who dipped into the well of self-portraiture on multiple occasions.
The balance of light gives a mysterious feeling to the painting, with the artist appearing from the darkness. The light falls upon his face and also his right hand, from where we can see the small cigarette. The shaded areas to his left and right almost give a feeling of ghostly figures joining him in the scene, but is actually just the way he would put together plain walls. The foreground is slightly lighter, suggesting, perhaps, that smoke was drifting across in front of the artist.
Self-Portrait with Burning Cigarette dates from 1895, when the artist would have been 31 years of age. The original Norwegian title given to it by Munch was Selvportrett med sigarett, which was obviously easy to translate across into other European languages. It is now part of the collection of the Nasjonalmuseet, The Fine Art Collections, or National Museum, in Oslo. The artist sold the work in the same year of completion, with his prolific speed of production meaning he always had artworks available for purchase. In total he left behind over a thousand paintings and so rarely concerned himself with parting from them.
This Expressionist artist tackled self-portraiture many times and one painting worth comparing this scene to would have to be Self Portrait between the Clock and the Bed, which is considerably brighter and that allowed more items across the scene to be found. He would always use his emotions to drive his work and so this type of artistic genre was always going to be a key part of his overall oeuvre. Invariably his depictions of himself would be honest but dark, just as he struggled externally for much of his life. Bouts of despair were the keys to both his successes and also his personal problems.
Tom Gurney in an art history expert. He received a BSc (Hons) degree from Salford University, UK, and has also studied famous artists and art movements for over 20 years. Tom has also published a number of books related to art history and continues to contribute to a number of different art websites. You can read more on Tom Gurney here.