Why See Munch?

Learn more about of the world’s finest collections of art by Edvard Munch! 

In this interview from 2018, Director of Art and Design at KODE Line Daatland tells about Munch, life, death and love.

Hi Line! Why should the public come to KODE and see the Munch collection?
– The people of Bergen own one of the largest, most important and unique Munch collections in the world, and that’s something we’re proud of. It’s a unique collection that traces Munch’s artistic development right from the start of his career.

At KODE 3 the public meet different sides of Edvard Munch. Is it possible to categorise his art according to different phases?
– Absolutely! We can divide the Munch collection at KODE into three main categories or periods.

We meet the young painter trying to find his own visual language, including the first painting to clearly point towards the Munch we recognise most. "Inger on the Shore" (1889) is known as the painting through which ‘Munch becomes Munch’. Instead of painting an external presentation of his sister Inger, he decides to delve into her emotional life.

We also meet Munch the Modern artist. Self-assured, he launches into his great project, the Frieze of Life, which is a poetic cycle on ‘Life, love and death’.

At last we meet an artist standing at a crossroad, and the theme shifts from inner darkness to external light. We see a mature man who has struggled with his own demons but moves on, both personally and as an artist.

Why is Munch’s art still relevant today?
– Again, I would emphasise the Frieze of Life, Munch’s major project. He wanted to affect people and paint themes common to everyone.

We can call these emotions ‘the major quakes’ – love, passion, intimacy, longing, jealousy, existential anxiety, but also quite personal anxiety. He constantly attends to this latter theme: to feel oneself alienated in the world.

The last theme in the Frieze of Life is death. Final and brutal – that which ultimately defines us all.

Everyone still experience these momentous feelings. It’s easy to feel lost, different and alienated in the world. These feeling are universal – whether the context was a century ago, a millennium ago, or today in our own era.

Munch developed a completely new visual language with emotive colours and universalising figures that communicate as well today as when he first painted them.

What do you think Munch was like as a person?
– My impression is of a sharp intellectual and a very curious person who developed his own theories. At the same time, he was probably also a sensitive man who carried much emotional baggage. He experienced many difficult things in his formative years. His mother died of tuberculosis when he was 5, and his sister Sophie died of the same disease at a very young age.

On the other hand, he was probably fascinating as a man, and since you now ask a woman: we have passion, assignations in the woods, lovers, a loaded revolver, drama and jealousy.

So clearly, there are many things to fascinate us here! Nevertheless, the women in Munch’s art are of great interest to me, as much as the painter himself.

Just to conclude, Line: If you could take home (!) a painting from the Munch collection, what would you choose?
– It would in fact be "The Deathbed" (1895), which is a gruesome but also fantastic painting. Formally, it’s so simple – he uses only three colours – but as far as I’m concerned, it’s perfect.

His sister Sophie is no longer with them; she’s on her way to somewhere else. The family stands at this invisible boundary and won’t let her go. The figures are recognisable as portraits, and each one fights a personal battle with sorrow.

Munch must have had a deep understanding of the sorrow of bereavement, also great insight into the human psyche in order to capture so precisely the emotions of each individual, says Line Daatland. 

Want to see the collection? 

The Edvard Munch collection is on display at KODE 3. Opening hours: Tuesday–Sunday 10.00-17.00, with extended opening hours Thursdays until 20.00. 

Please note that not all artworks will be available at all times and may be on loan to other institutions and/or at conservation.