Analysis of Edvard Munch's "The Sick Child" (pt 2)

The Sick Child has very defined brush strokes, and this is something that stays prevalent throughout all of the times he redid it. There is a lot of green and yellow, which represent sickness and dying (Heer), throughout the painting, but we see some strokes of red and orange around the painting as well. These represent hemoptysis, the blood coming from the child's lungs, which is typical in late-stage tuberculosis (Heer). Instead of having obvious splatters of blood, Munch just has small lines of red here and there more subtly, showing that consumption kills you quietly and lingers in the air after it's done. Munch described this painting as a “breakthrough” in his art (Vermeer). Even though it was not well received by critics, it helped him decide to lean more towards expressionism than impressionism in his art for the rest of his career (Vermeer). This was beneficial to him, as the technique helped him to later make his most famous painting, The Scream. Munch ended up redoing this work several times throughout the course of his life as an artist. He said, “I reworked the picture countless times in the course of a year—scratched it out—allowed it to infuse the paint medium—struggling again and again to recapture the first impression—its translucency—the pale skin towards the canvas, the trembling lips, the trembling hands” (Heer). He wanted to get the feeling and image of his sister dying just right, showing his and his aunt Karen's emotions as perfectly as possible, even in the first few years. He painted it for the first time in 1886, nine years after the event happened. He made a lithograph of it in 1894, and redid it in paint in 1896, twice in 1907, in 1925, and in 1927. He was obsessed with getting this work just right, saying, “I am convinced that there is hardly a painter among them who drained his subject to the very last bitter drop as I did in The Sick Child. It was not only I myself sitting there – it was all my loved ones” (Heer). He felt as though as long as he was reworking the painting, his loved ones who had died, including his mother, sister, and aunt, were still with him. Redoing this painting over and over helped him to heal emotionally from the trauma of his sister's death. Overall, The Sick Child is an amazing piece, showcasing exactly how the artist felt at the time, and how a lot of families and relatives of ill people felt throughout the tuberculosis epidemic. Munch felt that there was no hope left in the world after his sister died except through art, specifically this piece, so he redid it over and over again, ending up with more than six finished oil paintings (“The Sick Child, 1885 by Edvard Munch”). It helped him to heal and also to figure out what he really wanted his paintings to be like, what techniques and styles to use in his future pieces. He redid this painting a lot over 40 years, and was able to really make it convey exactly what he wanted it to. This piece goes to show that even when tragedy strikes, you can use it to make something of yourself, and if you happen to be an artist, you can make truly heart-wrenching art from it. Works Cited “Edvard Munch | The Sick Child.” The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Accessed 30 March 2023. Heer, Sati. “The Sick Child: Edvard, empathy and expertise.” UNEXAMINED MEDICINE, 17 April 2021, Accessed 30 March 2023. Paulson, Noelle. “Munch, The Scream (article).” Khan Academy, Accessed 7 April 2023. “The Sick Child.” Munchmuseet, Accessed 6 April 2023. “The Sick Child, 1885 by Edvard Munch.” Edvard Munch, Accessed 28 March 2023. Vermeer, Johannes. “The Sick Child (Det Syke Barn): Munch's Most Important Painting.” Artsapien, 1 May 2021, Accessed 7 April 2023.

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