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Three things Munch has taught me

May 28, 2019
Edvard Munch lessons photography

Edvard Munch was a norwegian painter born on decembre 1863, famous for his masterpiece, The Scream. Thanks to his paintings I’ve learnt different important things in art, and of course in photography.

In this article blog I’ve summarized three great lessons that Edward Munch has taught me. He isn’t my favourite painter but I love his tecnique, his mood and of course his best work, The Scream.

Lesson One – Emotion at first… Then composition

Emotions. Most important thing in art in my personal opinion. You can take shot with perfect composition and geometries, but without emotion your photos are dead. Same for art in general like painting and cinema. Aesthetics is great part of artist’s job, but it is not the first priority.

Looking at Munch’s canvas you can always feel something. Essentially he has a negative mood, his paintings evoke negative feelings. Fear, death, omen, despair, ill. He was influenced by events in his life. He try to convey emotions using colors, compositions, expressions and gestures.

The following canvas is an autoportrait. In this picture Munch try to communicate his depression using cold colors. The scene is probably set at sunset. The man in the foreground looks really sad and prostrated. The scene is well composed, elements are well balanced, but emotions are the most important thing. Try to imagine the same picture with a smiling man and miday colors, the scene would lose his mood; it would be still well composed and balanced, but dead inside. When you are on the street making street photography look at colors in the scene, search for expressive faces and gestures to convey emotions. Aesthetics is important, but feelings more.

Edvard Munch lessons


In the next one Munch painted the illness. See how he used cold colors and gestures to communicate pain and sorrow. Brushes are fast and nervous, it looks like an impressionistic canvas. Look at the strong contrast created by cold and hot tones and by complementary colors.


Black color, mysterious man looking at the viewer and an ugly shadow convey the idea of death. It’s like an omen.


Is it possible to give a pessimistic view painting lovers? Yes of course. It’s a sick love between two people. The scene is melancholic, we feel the depression of painter. There is a nice particular in that canvas, a window in the lower left corner; outside the world is colorful but inside the room tones are dark and there is no light. It seems a desperate embrace. The two faces are fused together, they are like the same thing, united in love and death.


Take home message lesson one: images without emotions are dead. First contents, after compositions. Try to convey feelings in your photography using colors, face expressions and gestures.


Lesson two – Colors and compositions

First emotions… Then colors and composition. Studying Munch’s works I’ve understand the importance of colors to convey the emotions and the message in art.

For example in the following painting Munch used blue tones to “kill the passion” and to “quench love”. The kiss between these two lovers is sick, is cold. Look how tonalities can change the meaning.

Edvard Munch lessons photography


Of course red is the color of love like in Mark Chagall’s painting:

red photography, painting, cinema

In this canvas Munch used red to emphasize the drama and pain of death; Red is strong, it is the color of love but also of blood, violence, fire and action. To understand more about RED IN ART read my previous blog article here. Again we can see the presence of an ugly shadow over persons.

Edvard Munch lessons photography


In this painting Munch used red-brown to symbolize life and vitality, (look at the child in red dress). The blues-greens are used in the background for the death scene. This canvas is about Life vs Death.

Edvard Munch lessons photography


In addition to the use of color I think that Munch’s works have also great compositions, the scenes are well balanced. Often he painted different layers to give more depth and three-dimensionality to his works. Moreover look how people in his paintings often watch in different directions; this give more dynamism to the scenes.

Let’s see some examples. Here is a picture with different layers. Look at the depth and three-dimensionality of the painting.

Edvard Munch lessons photography

dvard Munch lessons photography


I suggest you to study Alex Webb’s photos if you’re interested in shooting more complex frames with different layers and people.

Edvard Munch lessons photography
Alex Webb


In the next one we can see another interesting scene. The use of colors is similar to a canvas we talked about previously. There are different persons in different levels, each one is looking in a different direction. The composition is dramatic and dynamic.

Edvard Munch lessons photography

dvard Munch lessons photography


In the last one see how Edvard Munch balances his composition using opposite elements in the frame.

Edvard Munch lessons photography

dvard Munch lessons photography


Lesson three – Diagonals, lines, vortices : energy

“I was walking along a path with two friends – the sun was setting – suddenly the sky turned blood red – I paused, feeling exhausted, and leaned on the fence – there was blood and tongues of fire above the blue-black fjord and the city – my friends walked on, and I stood there trembling with anxiety – and I sensed an infinite scream passing through nature.” Edvard Munch

Can I talk about Munch without mentioning his masterpiece? Last but not least The scream, ladies and gentlemen. This picture is a wonderful synesthesia. Infact Munch had the great intuition to represent “the sound of a scream” using visual elements like colors and lines. Infact in this painting geometries like curved lines and vortices seem sound weaves. The strong contrast between cold and hot colors with the drawing and vertiginous perspective emphasize the drama of the scene.

Edvard Munch lessons photography


Edvard Munch lessons photography


That’s all folks

Stay well, have always light in your life

Best, F.S

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