Norwegian Expressionist painter, lithographer, etcher and wood-engraver of figure compositions, portraits and landscapes. Born in Loten, his family moving soon afterwards to Christiana (Oslo). Attended the Technical College 1879-80 to study engineering, then gave this up in order to paint. Early paintings in the realist tradition, influenced by his friend Christian Krohg. In 1884 attended Frits Thaulow's 'open-air academy' at Modum; entered Christiana's Bohemia of naturalist painters and writers noted for their advanced ideas on sexual ethics and morals. Visited Paris in 1885 and was influenced by the Impressionists. Organised the first one-man exhibition of his work in Christiana in 1889 and was awarded a scholarship, on which he went to Paris again 1889-90; studied for several months in the studio of Bonnat and apparently saw works by the Neo-Impressionists, van Gogh and Gauguin. Exhibited in 1892 at the Verein der Berliner Künstler where his works aroused violent controversy, but was encouraged by Strindberg, Przybyszewski and other writers living in Berlin. Made his first etchings and lithographs in 1894, his first woodcuts in 1896. His works influenced by Symbolism and centred round a cycle of 'The Frieze of Life' (themes of Love, Death, Jealousy, etc.). Lived mainly in Germany, especially Berlin, 1892-1908, with periods in Norway and visits to France and Italy. Suffered a serious nervous breakdown 1908-9. In 1909 returned to Norway where he spent most of the rest of his life, much of it working on projects for mural decorations. Died at his home in Ekely near Oslo. He left all the works in his possession to the City of Oslo to form a Munch Museum.
Ronald Alley, Catalogue of the Tate Gallery's Collection of Modern Art other than Works by British Artists, Tate Gallery and Sotheby Parke-Bernet, London 1981, p.548