Angst, 1896, lithograph on wove paper,
499 x 425 mm, private collection

The sound of a scream doesn’t tell the whole story. You need to see it too.

The Kunsthaus Zürich holds the largest collection of paintings by Edvard Munch (1863-1944) outside Norway. In 1922 it also hosted the most comprehensive presentation of his graphic works to date, featuring some 400 exhibits. So it was only natural for Kunsthaus Director Christoph Becker to mark the 150th anniversary of the world-famous artist’s birth by staging an exclusive exhibition of Munch’s graphic highlights in Zurich: 150 masterpieces – large-format works on paper, half of them in colour. The selection includes his most famous motifs: ‘The Scream,’ ‘Angst’ and ‘Melancholy,’ as well as ‘Vampire,’ ‘Madonna,’ ‘Girls on the Bridge’ and self-portraits. In most cases there are a number of versions, illustrating Munch’s working method and experimental approach to the printing techniques he used. From the earliest drypoint to the final lithograph, the works from this private collection – on show in its entirety for the first time – are striking in both the richness and subtlety of their colour palette and their expressive reduction.

You will experience how, in his graphic works, Munch condenses his central Symbolist allegories – often with greater rigour than in his paintings. Love, pain and death, passion, loneliness and sorrow: Munch’s entire oeuvre revolves around the fundamental experiences of human existence and the lives of modern people. He is one of the precursors of the Expressionist currents that began to shape European painting at the start of the 20th century.

Occupying over 1,200 m2 in the large exhibition gallery, the presentation features not just works on paper but also paintings by Munch from the Kunsthaus collection – full-length portraits, harbour scenes and landscapes acquired by the Zürcher Kunstgesellschaft from the 1920s onwards, some of them direct from the artist, others loaned or donated to the Kunsthaus at a later date.

An exhibition devoted to Edvard Munch is always a challenge – in terms of content, logistics and funding. The Kunsthaus would like to thank its partner Swiss Re for the generous financial and conceptual support that made this project possible. Our compliments and sincere thanks go to the long-serving curator of the Munch Museum in Oslo, Gerd Woll, for her profound scholarly guidance and eminently readable catalogue; and to Farrow & Ball who supplied the colours used for the walls in the exhibition.

Now, dear visitors, it’s up to you. We hope the stories and works we briefly introduce on this website will encourage you to visit the exhibition. The formal boldness and radicalism of Munch’s themes are never more inspiring than when you are face to face with the originals. This is a rare opportunity to appreciate Munch in his entirety!



The exhibition is accompanied by a comprehensive catalogue drawn up by Gerd Woll, author of the catalogues raisonnés of Edvard Munch’s paintings and prints and former senior curator of the Munch Museum in Oslo. Comprising 208 pages with around 170 illustrations, it is published by Hatje Cantz.


A free audioguide (in English, German, French and Italian) with commentaries on selected works is also available.


Public guided tours in German take place on Wednesdays at 6 p.m., Thursdays at 3 p.m., Fridays at 5 p.m. and Sundays at 11 a.m.

In English: Thursday 24 October at 5 p.m., Friday 15 November at 6 p.m. und Sunday 8 December at 1 p.m.

We will be happy to arrange private guided tours in several languages on request. Please call +41 (0)44 253 84 84 (Mon–Fri 9 a.m.–midday)

ZKO in the Kunsthaus

Munch concert by the Zurich Chamber Orchestra: 3 November, 11 a.m. in the lecture hall of the Kunsthaus.

The fundamental experiences of human existence are also an abiding theme throughout the history of music. From Johann Sebastian Bach to Gustav Mahler.

Tickets and information: ZKO Ticket Office, tel. 0848 84 88 44, www.zko.ch


A comprehensive art education programme in German for all generations has been organized.

See „Kunstvermittlung“ on the German website.


duration of the exhibition


Opening hours

Sat, Sun, Tues 10 a.m.–6 p.m.,
Wed, Thurs, Fri 10 a.m.–8 p.m.,
closed on Mondays.
For public holiday opening see kunsthaus.ch


Kunsthaus Zürich
Heimplatz 1
CH-8001 Zurich,
Phone +41 (0)44 253 84 84

Admission including audioguide

(DE | EN | FR | IT)

CHF 20 / CHF 15 concessions, per head for groups of 20 or more.
Children and young people up to the age of 16 free of charge.

Advance sales

SBB RailAway combination ticket, with discount on travel and admission: at stations and by phoning Rail Service: 0900 300 300 (CHF 1.19/min. by land line), www.sbb.ch/en/munch.

Zurich Tourism: hotel room reservation and ticket sales available from the Tourist Service at Zurich Main Railway Station, tel. +41 44 215 40 00, hotel@zuerich.com, www.zuerich.com.

Magasins Fnac: sales points in Switzerland: Rives, Balexert, Lausanne, Fribourg, Pathé Kino Basel, www.fnac.ch; France: Carrefour, Géant, Magasins U, 0 892 68 36 22 (0.34 €/min), www.fnac.com; Belgium: www.fnac.be.

Food and drink

Kunsthaus Restaurant, www.kunsthausrestaurant.ch,
tel.: +41 (0)44 251 53 53, reservations for groups also available.


Zürcher Kunstgesellschaft
P.O. Box
CH-8024 Zurich

Texts: Gerd Woll, Björn Quellenberg
Editor: Kristin Steiner
Layout and technical realization: gestalten AG, Zurich

Citation should include mention of source.
© Kunsthaus Zürich 2013

All works: © The Munch Museum/The Munch-Ellingsen Group/2013, ProLitteris, Zurich
All rights reserved. Without permission reproduction and any other use of the work besides the individual and private consultation is forbidden.

A scream passing through nature

Today, ‘The Scream’ is not just the most iconic image created by Edvard Munch (1863-1944) but also arguably the most celebrated pictorial motif in European art history. One of the earliest drawings is accompanied by a prose poem by the artist, who is appreciated as a representative of both Expressionism and Symbolism:

‘I was walking along the road with two friends – The sun was setting. The sky turned blood red – and I felt a wave of sadness – I paused tired to death – above the blue-black fjord and city blood and flaming tongues hovered. My friends walked on – I stayed behind – quaking with angst – I felt the great scream in nature.’

Sickness, fear and death are fundamental aspects of the art of Edvard Munch; they are often associated with his family circumstances in childhood and youth. His mother and a number of his siblings died of tuberculosis. He himself suffered severe pneumonia at a young age, and as a result a fear of chills and lung ailments stayed with him throughout his life.

The Scream, 1895, lithograph on wove paper, 513 x 384 mm, private collection


When Munch began experimenting with graphic techniques in 1894, the Madonna was one of the most motifs he essayed, with a very carefully executed drypoint etching. Around the picture area he designed a border depicting spermatozoa and an embryo. The juxtaposition of pictorial elements inspired by evolutionary theory and modern medicine with a figure interpreted as religious prompted a storm of controversy around the ‘Madonna’ lithograph. On a few occasions its title was altered to ‘Monna’ to obscure the religious connotations.

Madonna, 1895/1902, lithograph on Japan paper 830 x 575 mm, private collection

On the bridge

Groups of girls or young women on a bridge soon became one of Munch’s favourite motifs. As so often in his work, this woodcut was not created as a sketch for a subsequent composition but in fact follows on from a painting produced earlier. Apart from the fact that – as with all graphic versions – the image is reversed, it bears a strong resemblance to the painting.

Girls on the Bridge, 1918, combination print on wove paper, 705 x 590 mm, private collection

Femmes fatales

At the end of the 19th century, the perception of woman as a dangerous creature was still widespread. Munch employed numerous symbolic references to such female figures. ‘On the Waves of Love’ contains a strong element of doom, while with ‘In Man’s Brain’ a more humorous approach comes to the fore, the nude figure of the woman clearly suggesting what is on the man’s mind.

Man’s Head in Woman’s Hair, 1896, woodcut on Japan paper, 635 x 465 mm, private collection

Love life

A large part of Munch’s art deals with the problems that beset the relationship between man and woman. He depicts the act of falling in love in all its beauty with motifs such as ‘Attraction,’ in which two people gaze at each other in rapture. The difficulties, meanwhile, manifest themselves in motifs such as ‘Melancholy,’ ‘Ash’ and ‘Jealousy,’ while ‘Separation’ depicts the final, painful break-up.

Separation II, 1896, lithograph on Japan paper, hand coloured, 580 x 810 mm, private collection

Towards the forest

Curiously the motif of a man and a woman, in close embrace, walking towards the dark woods is one that Munch never reproduced in paint. This woodcut is also one of his largest, and is presented here by the Kunsthaus in two variations. An early version uses subdued colours throughout, creating a mystical, nocturnal mood and emphasizing the darkness of the forest. Looking at the later version, we notice that the woman is now clothed, while the light colours are suggestive of day rather than night.

Towards the Forest, 1915, woodcut on wove paper, 604 x 768 mm, private collection

Portraits of poets and writers

Munch’s graphic work includes a remarkably large number of portraits of writers and poets, including lithographs of Stéphane Mallarmé, Knut Hamsun, Henrik Ibsen and August Strindberg.

Henrik Ibsen in the Café of the Grand Hotel, 1902, lithograph on wove paper, 505x650 mm, private collection

The kiss

Munch tackled the motif of the kiss in numerous versions and media, from early drawings in the 1880s to paintings, woodcuts and etchings in the 1890s, right up to his final woodcut, completed a few months before his death at the end of January 1944. The Kunsthaus Zürich, which holds the largest collection of works by Munch outside Norway, is showing no less than five versions of the ‘Kiss.’

The Kiss IV, 1902, woodcut on Japan paper, 525 x 590 mm, private collection

Women and the beach

The shoreline of Åsgårdstrand forms the backdrop for many of Munch’s most familiar motifs. Round stones, tree roots and the trunks of pine trees lend the summer night a somewhat mystical and fateful air. The constellation of a young and an old woman was one that Munch probably first adopted in the playbill for Peer Gynt.

A woman in light-coloured clothing is seen from behind. She represents a female character who appears in a series of Munch’s pictures and is at her most beautiful in the delicate mezzotint from 1896, where she is a luminous figure standing by the shore and gazing out to sea. In all, twelve copies of this mezzotint are known; all are colour prints, and they differ greatly from each other.

An 1891 painting with this motif was lost on a sea crossing in 1901, but by that time Munch had already reworked it as an etching and woodcut. He also experimented with the use of various stencils in order to achieve even greater variation, as well as painting directly onto a number of sheets.

Two Women on the Shore, 1898, woodcut on Simili Japan paper, hand coloured, 476 x 635 mm, private collection


Munch used himself as a model throughout his life. His first graphic self-portrait, a lithograph from 1895, shows a self-confident young artist and is often compared to Félix Vallotton’s contemporary woodcut portraits. Munch was not afraid to depict himself as a sick or lonely man. On hectographs he shows himself in various everyday situations; he was one of the first artists to use this method of reproducing drawings.

Self-portrait, 1895, lithograph on wove paper, 609 x 463 mm, private collection

The burden of neutrality

Although as an artist Munch was largely preoccupied with himself, he was nevertheless interested in what was going on around him. During the First World War he lived in neutral Norway, isolated from events in central Europe. The lithograph ‘Neutrals,’ an ironic commentary on the war, shows countries outside the conflict picking fruit while the rest of Europe tears itself apart.

Neutrals, 1915, lithograph on wove paper, 895 x 619 mm, private collection

Woman with Red Hair and Green Eyes

In winter 1902, determined to secure a firm foothold in Berlin’s art world, Munch rented a suitably imposing studio in the German capital. He engaged a professional model with long, flowing red hair.

He portrays the red-haired woman in both paintings and lithographs. In this case, however, the painting is less well known than its printed counterpart! Having first drawn the motif on one side of the lithographic stone and printed a number of monochrome copies, Munch transferred parts of the motif to the reverse of the stone. For the colour prints, he printed the front of the stone in red and the back in yellow, while the green eyes were apparently applied direct to the stone. When the stone reached Norway from Germany at the start of the First World War, he drew new lines on the belly area, thus transforming the condition of the lithograph.

This is just one surprising example of the production techniques (some more roundabout than others) that can be traced through the almost 150 works that make up the exhibition.

Woman with Red Hair and Green Eyes. The Sin, 1902, lithograph on Japan paper, 830 x 575 mm, private collection


The motifs of the fifteen paintings from the Kunsthaus’s own holdings include members of Hanseatic merchant families, landscapes near Chemnitz, and Lübeck harbour. Munch’s 1921 work ‘Apple Tree’ is based on a composition that harks back to the theme of Adam and Eve. This exquisite piece from the exhibition will be shown in the collection galleries of the Kunsthaus again after the temporary presentation ends. For an enduring impression of the ‘whole’ Munch, however, one needs to see it in the context of the marvellous and often experimental prints; the light-sensitive works on paper will return to private archives once the exhibition is over, and will not be seen in public again for some time.

Apple Tree, 1921, oil on canvas, 100 x 130.5 cm, Kunsthaus Zürich, gift of Alfred Rütschi