Towards the light

When Munch had recovered from his nervous breakdown, he returned to Norway in 1909. He led a secluded life conscious of his health. His self-portraits reveal a new vitality and an essential change in his art – eschewing the fiery flames of hell for the light of the sun.

In Kragerø, Munch painted several full-length portraits of his close friends, and also a self-portrait with Torvald Stang, a childhood friend. He portrays himself at work, reflecting his role as a painter. The mood is relaxed and intimate.

In Self-portrait. Nude with Raised Arm (circa 1915) Munch stretches upwards in the pictorial space bathed in sunlight – towards light and life. The sun gives warmth to the painting and dapples his body in golden yellow. Here, the artist has found a metaphor for his own situation after the years of crisis.

After returning home he also painted Self-portrait with Head in Hand (1911). The soft pastel tones enhance the calm, tranquil atmosphere. “I’m beginning to find myself again – but it wasn’t easy,” Munch writes to his patron, Ernest Thiel, in Stockholm in February 1911.

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