Edvard Munch, ‘Self-Portrait’, 1895, Christie's

Signed in pencil, a fine, rich impression of Woll’s second state (of four), printed by Lassally, Berlin, with wide margins, trimmed slightly irregularly at the upper sheet edge, some mount and light-staining in the margins, a couple of creases in the lower margin, generally in good condition, framed.
Image 460 x 320 mm., Sheet 545 x 385 mm.

From the Catalogue:
Munch's self-portraits (see lots 32 and 37) are haunting psychic studies that present not just the artist’s physical appearance but are infused with a sense of the artist’s inner being. Munch’s typically Symbolist depiction of himself in the present work shows a disembodied head, splitting the physical and spiritual sides of the self (see also lot 36).

In his best prints – and arguably more so than in his paintings – Munch perfectly matched medium and content and created highly condensed images, which are visually as simple as they are complex. Self-Portrait is reduced to four elements charged with meaning: the right skeleton arm alludes to the hand of the artist, whilst presaging his inevitable death; his white disembodied face hovers on a dark surface, calling to mind a death mask, as well as that first of all prints, the veil of Veronica with the face of Christ; the inscription of the artist’s name and the date of the print at the top mimics the entablature of a tombstone, a reference also to the lithographic stone; and finally the intense, velvety black of the background, the colour of mourning, signifying eternal night.

The present second state is the definitive version of this print. In the first, unfinished state the background is still patchy, without the impenetrable blackness. In the third and fourth states, the skeleton arm and the inscription at the top are obliterated, thus losing all the memento mori connotations, which make this image one of the most chilling yet touching self-portraits of modern art.
—Courtesy of Christie's

Schiefler 31; Woll 37
E. Prelinger/ M. Parke-Taylor, The symbolist prints of Edvard Munch – The Vivian and David Campbell Collection, Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto (exh. cat.), 1997, no. 14, p. 93-96 (another impression illustrated).
N. Cullinan, Medium as Muse – Munch, Medium Specificity and Modernity, in: A. Lampe/ C. Chéroux, Edvard Munch – The Modern Eye, Tate Modern, London (et al.) (exh. cat.), no. 3, p. 19-22 (another impression illustrated).

About Edvard Munch

A recognized forerunner of Expressionism, Norwegian painter and printmaker Edvard Munch is renowned for his representations of emotion. Associated with the international development of Symbolism, Munch experimented with many different themes, palettes, and styles of drawing. Though stylistically influenced by Paul Gauguin and the Nabis, Munch’s subjects are drawn from his Scandinavian roots and his own tortured psyche. His most famous painting, The Scream (1893), illustrates a tormented cry translated into waves of color that resonate across the landscape. Though based on Munch’s own experience, The Scream has become an instantly recognizable symbol of anxiety and alienation. Often reworking his paintings into etchings and lithographs, Munch was also one of the major graphic artists of the 20th century—he took an experimental approach to printmaking and contributed to the revival of the woodcut.

Norwegian, 1863-1944, Løten, Norway, based in Oslo, Norway