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  • Edvard Munch
    Dec 12, 1863 - Jan 23, 1944
  • Evening on Karl Johan Street - Edvard Munch was a Norwegian Symbolist painter, printmaker and an important forerunner of expressionistic art. His best-known composition, The Scream, is part of a series The Frieze of Life, in which Munch explored the themes of life, love, fear, death, and melancholia. His work often included the symbolic portrayal of such themes as misery, sickness, and death.
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Evening on Karl Johan Street
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  • Evening on Karl Johan Street

  • Edvard Munch
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  • 1892
    Oil on canvas
    84.5 cm (33.27 in.) x 121 cm (47.64 in.)
    Bergen Kunstmuseum, Norway.

    Munch's Evening on Karl Johan Street is a scene from a nightmare, an anxiety dream worked up into a painting.

    Black coated figures with corpse-white faces like Roswell aliens stream zombie-like and unstoppable towards the viewer. Munch painted this vision of Karl Johan Street, the main street of Kristiania (now Oslo), in 1892; he'd previously painted relatively realistic pictures of the street, but here it becomes the scene for an Expressionist vision of angst.

    He eradicates detail; the lighted windows seem to float in space like huge rectangular kites, and the faces are featureless except for their staring eyes (and in one case a massive black bar of moustache). What in real life was a pre-theatre or after-dinner stroll has been filtered through an anguished sensibility to become a horrific zombie movie. The strong diagonal composition, with the house fronts on the left hand side of the picture crowding the evening strollers into the foreground, creates a feeling of claustrophobia.

    Munch divides the painting into three blocks of colour; the red house fronts, black figures, and the dark blue sky behind, in a design that is simple and effective. His colours are lurid - acid yellow, dark blue and violet, mauve and puce; they could almost come from Van Gogh, but the effect is different - in Van Gogh the colours shine with inward light, whereas in Munch they seem to come from a dream state where everything is unreal and weirdly altered. By cropping the picture, so that the bodies of the walkers aren't shown, Munch creates a sense of threat; the heads are even more nightmarish, and seem closer to the viewer, almost bursting right out of the painting.

    One dark, slight figure walks away. This is often interpreted as Munch himself, turning away from a crowd whose noise and bustle is too much for the sensitive soul of an artist. He is doubled by the huge dark mass of a single tree looming on the right. Munch has created a powerful portrayal of loneliness and fear. There is an urgency and rawness to this painting which recalls that of Munch's best known painting, The Scream, but here, the threat comes from outside, rather than from the artist's own mind.

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Other paintings by Edvard Munch:

Andreas Reading 1882-1883
Andreas Reading 1882-1883
Adam and Eve 1909
Adam and Eve 1909
The Sun 1911
The Sun 1911
Friedrich Nietzsche 1906
Friedrich Nietzsche 1906
Edvard Munch1863-1944. The Norwegian artist Edvard Munch is regarded as a pioneer in the Expressionist movement in modern painting. At an early stage Munch was recognized in Germany and central Europe as one of the creators of a new epoch. His star is still on the ascendant in the other European countries, and in the rest of the world. Munch's art from the 1890s is the most well known, but his later work is steadily attracting greater attention, and it appears to inspire present-day artists in particular. Often called the father of Expressionism, the Norwegian painter suffered as a child with illness, loss, and psychological terror, emotions that characterize many early images. He chose painting as his life's work at a young age and traveled throughout Europe, especially to Paris, where he absorbed the influences of Impressionism, then Post-Impressionism, and Art Nouveau design. While in Berlin, he joined a circle of writers and artists that included playwrights Henrik Ibsen and August Strindberg, who became friends and collaborators. Just as his Scandinavian colleagues, Munch unflinchingly brought the darker side of the human experience to his art.