Story of the Lewis Chessmen, £5.00
Height: 456.000 mm
Width: 320.000 mm
Bequeathed by Campbell Dodgson
Prints and Drawings
Edvard Munch, Self-portrait with skeleton arm, a lithograph
Germany, AD 1895
A modern memento mori
This is one of the first lithographs that Munch
(1863-1944) made in Berlin in 1895. The basic design is drawn in
lithographic chalk, over which a thick ink wash has been brushed to
create a solid black. In this it gives an immediate impression of a
The bones at the bottom of the picture are a 'memento mori', or a reminder of death, and appear as if they were his own arm leaning on the picture's frame. The whole composition takes the form of a sepulchral tablet.
'I was born dying', Munch claimed as an old man. 'Sickness, insanity and death were the dark angels standing guard at my cradle and they have followed me throughout my life'.
Some years later, probably after 1900, when reprinting this lithograph, Munch blacked out the arm and his name.
F. Carey, Modern Scandinavian prints, exh. cat. (London, The British Museum Press, 1997)
R. Rosenblum and others, Edvard Munch: symbols and imag, exh. cat. (National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1978)
F. Carey and A. Griffiths, The print in Germany 1880-1933, exh. cat. (London, The British Museum Press, 1984)