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Steinberg, S. Weiss, J. (1954). The Art of Edvard Munch and its Function in his Mental Life. Psychoanal Q., 23:409-423.

(1954). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 23:409-423

The Art of Edvard Munch and its Function in his Mental Life

Stanley Steinberg, M.D. and Joseph Weiss, M.D.

Edvard Munch (1863-1944), though scarcely known in the United States, has long been recognized by European art critics as one of the great modern painters and as a leader of the expressionist movement. He is a national hero in Norway and has been described by Stenersen (1) as the 'poet-genius of the North'.

Several aspects of Munch's career are of psychological interest. This paper deals particularly with a change in the function of Munch's art in his psychic economy and discusses how this change was reflected in the character of his paintings. The change took place after a psychotic episode which occurred when Munch was forty-six years old (1908-1909). The works of the fifteen-year period preceding this illness are macabre in content and unusual in technique. They often depict scenes of turblence and anguish which the artist imagined, or scenes of illness and death which he recalled from his childhood. They are harsh and powerful in effect. His paintings after the psychotic break are more tranquil, decorative, and traditional. But the artist developed new attitudes toward his paintings at this time. He became extremely reluctant to part with them.

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