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Art and Images in Psychiatry
April 2013

Munch's Self-portrait Between Clock and Bed

Author Affiliations


JAMA Psychiatry. 2013;70(4):358-359. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2013.312

The second half of my life has been nothing but a struggle to keep myself upright. My path took me along the edge of an abyss, a bottomless pit. . . . Every so often I left the path and threw myself into the commotion of life, amongst people. But I always had to return to the path along the abyss. . . . My art was self-confession . . . in my case the fear of life is also a need. . . . Without [it] I would be a ship without a helmsman.—Edvard Munch1(p287)

The Norwegian Expressionist painter Edvard Munch explored his anxiety about life and his illnesses through his art (epigraph). His best-known and most-often cited works were created between 1890 and 1908, yet he continued to draw and paint for 35 more years. An important part of his work in those later years was self-portraiture. From the age of 18 until his death in 1944 at age 80, Munch (1863-1944) painted nearly 70 self-portraits, 20 prints, and more than 100 watercolors, drawings, and sketches, most of them after 1900. These provide a visual autobiography of more than 6 decades of his life, yet few were exhibited during his lifetime. Seemingly, he used self-portraits as a means of self-exploration of his life and his relationships with others. His first self-portrait at the age of 18 was a realistic personal likeness, but his later ones were more revealing of his suffering and self-alienation.2