Edvard Munch Behind the Scream Sue Prideaux

Publication date:
01 Apr 2007
Yale University Press
391 pages:
125 b-w + 30 color illus.

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.

More about this title

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

Sue Prideaux is an art historian and the author of four novels. She was born in England but baptized in Norway. Her life has zigzagged between the two countries ever since. Her godmother was painted by Munch and her family were his neighbours and supporters. She completed her education and training as an art historian in Florence, Paris and London.

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

"A magisterial portrait of a deeply troubled man. It is both humorous 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

"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

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

"[Prideaux] yanks Munch out of his popular role as a nutty Norwegian one-hit wonder and places him squarely in the mainstream of modernism and the intellectual history of the 20th century." Bryan Appleyard, The Sunday Times