Soul on Fire

Self-Portrait, Spanish Influenza-Edvard Munch 1919

At beginning of 1919, the Norwegian artist Edvard Munch (see Madonna) who painted one of the most famous paintings of all time, 1893’s The Scream, became seriously  ill with the Spanish Influenza that had already claimed the lives of millions across the world.

Munch painted hundreds of self-portraits throughout his career, most notable are Self-Portrait with Burning Cigarette from 1895 and 1903’s startling Self-Portrait in Hell (see below). Munch’s art which encompassed Symbolism and paved the way for Expressionism, brought a new and unprecedented focus on subjectivity and psychological states, naturally found raw material in the unflinching and  dramatic presentation of the diseased and tormented self.

Self-Portrait, Spanish Influenza,  though of a later period, is no exception in its neurotic intensity. The jarring colours are suggestive of sickness and trauma and Munch’s sallow mask-like face seems to be staring straight at death.

Munch would survive the Spanish Influenza, dying in 1944 at the age of 80. His paintings and prints retain an evocative urgency in their depiction of the universal states of anguish, illness, sexual anxiety and the dissolution of the body.


Self Portrait with Burning Cigarette-1895
Self Portrait in Hell 1903

11 thoughts on “Soul on Fire

  1. Good morning, Sir cake! Thank you again for sharing this with me. I feel an even stronger empathy for the artist after realizing what he suffered through during the epidemic. My gratefulness abounds.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. “Self-Portrait, Spanish Influenza” yes, very suggestive of death, his face is ghost-like and transparent. I find Munch’s work to be disturbing, yet memorable. As always a pleasure to read Mr. Cake. ~ Miss Cranes

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you. I think Munch is a magnificent artist, though The Scream has been over-exposed (that’s no fault of Munch though). He had a inherent self dramatising tendency that makes his work unforgettable. If you are ever in Oslo, take the time to go the Munch Museum and the National. Thank you for your kind comments.

      Liked by 1 person

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