Edvard Munch

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Behind The Scream

Sue Prideaux

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Although almost everyone recognizes Edvard Munch’s famous painting The Scream, hardly anyone knows much about the man. What kind of person could have created this universal image, one that so vividly expressed all the uncertainties of the twentieth century? What kind of experiences did he have? In this book, the first comprehensive biography of Edvard Munch in English, Sue Prideaux brings the artist fully to life. Combining a scholar’s precision with a novelist’s insight, she explores the events of his turbulent life and unerringly places his experiences in their intellectual, emotional, and spiritual contexts.
With unlimited access to tens of thousands of Munch’s papers, including his letters and diaries, Prideaux offers a portrait of the artist that is both intimate and moving. Munch sought to paint what he experienced rather than what he saw, and as his life often veered out of control, his experiences were painful. Yet he painted throughout his long life, creating strange and dramatic works in which hysteria and violence lie barely concealed beneath the surface. An extraordinary genius, Munch connects with an audience that reaches around the world and across more than a century.

Sue Prideaux is an art historian and the author of four novels.

“Such was the nature of Edvard Munch’s life that this book makes a gripping read. Prideaux provides a convincing sense of the psychological experiences of Munch and also the flavor of the times that he occupied.”—John Milner, University of Newcastle

"...a significant addition to the literature on the Norwegian artist... It is among Prideaux's achievements to give us a thousand...details that pull Munch into sharper focus." - Christopher Riopelle, Apollo Magazine

Behind the Scream offers new insights and interpretations of Norway’s enigmatic painter. Unlimited access to the artist’s papers makes for a most interesting read.”—Art Times

"Sue Prideaux's marvellously detailed study of Munch's extraordinary life takes us deep into the very soul of an astonishing Scandinavian painter who must be measured by no ordinary yardstick."---Birmingham Post

"As one reads Prideaux’s meticulously detailed yet always companionable and often startling account of Munch’s dramatically difficult life and extraordinarily intense psyche, one marvels that he lived so long and achieved so much. . . . Prideaux makes Munch’s voice a key aspect of her narrative. . . . As Prideaux vividly chronicles Munch’s tumultuous life in turbulent times in Norway, Paris, and Berlin, the reader’s appreciation of this bold spirit who risked all to descend into the realm of archetypes and create art depicting the ‘secret life of the soul’ grows exponentially."—Booklist (starred review)

A riveting biography. . . . provides non-specialist readers with lucid analyses of Munch’s very varied, often unsettling paintings.

"[Prideaux’s] treatment is very effective and her writing, cohesive, clear, and often compelling. Recommended."—Library Journal

[An] excellent new biography . . . Provides some deep background about the artist’s turbulent life and tormented psyche.

"...[Prideaux's] biography [has] a kind of sympathetic authority... [It] fills out the man behind the paintings." - Patricia Railing, The Art Book, February 2006

"...excellent...highly detailed...fascinating..." - Martin Bailey, The Art Newspaper

"Beautifully illustrated, this is one of the most engaging biographies I have read this year."---Mohara Gill, Art Buyer at Foyles Bookshop, The Bookseller

"Already a successful novelist, [Prideaux] combines a scholar's precision with a writer's insight."---The Brighton Argus

“An impeccable reference suitable for both classroom and library alike. . . . Prideaux does a masterful job at revealing the core of the man at the heart of the artist. . . . In addition to the wealth of information she presents, Prideaux augments her text with stunning illustrations that help to carry this book to another level. Recommended as a supporting class text in Art History courses that go beyond superficial study of the period, bringing students unto the most dynamic artists of each period. Would further prove indispensable to University-level libraries as a general reference text.”—The Electric Review

"In Edvard Munch: Behind the Scream, Sue Prideaux, who speaks fluent Norwegian and was able to read Munch's diaries first hand, extends the understanding of this complex man."---Sue Hubbard, The Independent

"[Munch] once wrote: 'Just as Leonardo studied the recesses of the human body and dissected cadavers, I try from self-scrutiny to dissect what is universal in the soul.'

Prideaux has written a life which goes a long way towards upholding his aim and anyone who wants to know how and why he painted as he did should read this book."---Tom Rosenthal, The Independent on Sunday

'... it is packed with information and event. Few biographies of artists can be described as gripping. This often is.'---Martin Gayford, The Sunday Telegraph

"... a magisterial portrait of a deeply troubled man. It is both humerous and tragic in its account of Munch's abortive relationships with women, his dependence on drink, and his struggle for success and recognition.'---Frances Spalding, The Sunday Times

'... [an] absorbing account of the social and intellectual forces, as well as the personal demons, that Munch struggled against - or solicited - in order to create.'---Alan Jenkins, Times Literary Supplement

"Art historian Sue Prideaux has chronicled the turbulent life of the genius behind these paintings in a new and absorbing biography. Ms. Prideaux gives us rare and intimate insights. . . . Her connections and unrelenting research netted the biographer unprecedented access to thousands of Munch's diaries, letters and other papers. . . . Ms. Prideaux sorts out Munch's works and his difficult life with a scholar's eye for history and a novelist's eye for anecdotes."—Gwen Gibson, Washington Times

"[An] assured and vivid biography."—Peter Schjeldahl, New Yorker

"This fine biography succeeds in explaining why this deeply troubled man, in many ways forgotten, was and is an important and profound artist." ---Alastair Lack, Oxford Times

"Sue Prideaux's fascinating, well-illustrated biography of Edvard Munch reveals clearly and calmly the torments and accomplishments which this Norwegian artist experienced."—Carole J. Lambert, Southern Humanities Review

Winner of the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for Biography in 2005, awarded by the University of Edinburgh.

Selected for Association of American University Presses (AAUP) Books for Public and Secondary School Libraries, 2006
ISBN: 9780300110241
Publication Date: October 25, 2005
391 pages, x
125 b/w + 30 color illus.

A Life

Sue Prideaux

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