The Most Expensive Paintings by Edvard Munch Sold at Auction

July 12, 2016

Paintings by Edvard Munch are widely regarded as one of the most famous artworks ever produced in Norwegian art history. He is certainly one of the best-known Scandinavian artists, and his works can be seen in public and private collections all around the globe. Munch was a painter and printmaker, but it was the paintings that made him popular. One particular painting needs to be emphasized – The Scream – as one of the most recognized and famous paintings in Modern Art, a brilliant piece that has entered the domain of general culture long ago.

Edvard Munch was born in Ådalsbruk in Løten, Norway, in 1863, and he died in Oslo, in 1944. Many details from his personal life are known, since they largely influenced Munch’s artistic approach. He was suffering from chronic anxiety and possibly by depression. In the autumn of 1908, Munch's anxiety, compounded by excessive drinking and brawling, had become acute. He spent months in a hospital where he was received therapy that included diet and "electrification". Upon his return to Norway in 1909, he began creating more optimistic and colorful paintings. The last years before his death he spent alone at his home.

Edvard Munch was living in Paris and Berlin, apart from his life in Norway. During his early active years, he was under the heavy influence of Impressionism and Naturalism. Some early works are reminiscent of Manet. Later on, his paintings had characteristics of symbolism, Expressionism and Post-Impressionism. Munch’s practice greatly influenced German Expressionism in the early 20th century. Still, he is best-known for his early works from the late 1890s and early 1990s, the majority of which are dealing with psychological themes.

During the Nazi occupation of Norway, Edvard Munch lived in a house where he kept nearly an entire collection of his art. He was afraid of a Nazi confiscation. Seventy-one of the paintings previously taken by the Nazis had been returned to Norway through purchase by collectors (the other eleven were never recovered), including The Scream. Today, the majority of his art can be seen in Norwegian Museums.

Editors’ Tip: The Private Journals of Edvard Munch: We Are Flames Which Pour Out of the Earth

Edvard Munch is the most famous Norwegian artist in history. This brilliant artist, painter and printmaker, is also famous for his painting The Scream, which Arthur Lubow has described as "an icon of modern art, a Mona Lisa for our time." Munch was very productive artist, and he created hundreds of fascinating paintings. Influenced by Naturalism and Impressionism, he developed a unique visual style that largely inspired the artists of the German Expressionism. Many of his works can be described as Post-Impressionism. His private life was very turbulent, and it influenced Munch’s artistic approach. That is why we recommend you the book entitled The Private Journals of Edvard Munch: We Are Flames Which Pour Out of the Earth.

There are so many fascinating paintings by Edvard Munch but take a look what paintings by this famous artist are the most expensive!


Depicting four youths bathing at twilight, Badende is an important work from the 1890s, that powerfully translates a simple shoreline scene into a strong and mysterious evocation of mood, and perhaps even a metaphor for the journey of life. After absorbing the impact of Impressionism and the more psychological art of Odilon Redon on his recent journeys and studies in France between 1889-1892, Munch returned periodically to his home in Kristiania (Oslo) where he was often drawn to the nearby coastal village of Aasgardstrand. The painting was sold for $4,324,500 at Christie’s London in 2008. For more information, click here.

Kvinne som Speiler Seg (Woman Looking in the Mirror)

Painted in 1892, Kvinne som speiler seg was painted during a crucial transition for Munch, a time when he abandoned Impressionist influences and found a voice that would change forever the foundations of Modernism. Munch's disengagement with the traditions of Western painting in choosing to express emotion and mood instead of visible reality was quite shocking for the European artistic community. The painting was sold for $4,500,000 at Sotheby’s New York in 2012. For more information about the artwork, click here.


This romantic painting was executed at Hvitsten on the west side of the Oslo Fjord, where Munch bought the manor Nedre Ramme and where he developed a lighter, life-affirming and optimistic style marking his recovery from a breakdown he had in 1808. It was created in 1913. The painting was sold for $5,506,500 at Sotheby’s London in 2007. More information about the painting you can find here.

Self-Portrait (against Two-coloured Background)

Self-Portrait (against Two-coloured Background) is the best-known self-portrait by Munch. This painting was executed around 1904 after the artist’s separation from Tulla Larsen, during the period he was depressed. The desperate and introspective Munch mercilessly catalogued his fears, anxieties and sense of isolation in self-portraiture. The painting was sold for $5,621,400 at Sotheby’s London in 2006. For more information, click here.

View from Nordstrand

There are several paintings by Edvard Munch depicting the landscape and a house in Nordstrand. They are all very influenced by Post-Impressionism, with vivid colors and with optimistic subjects. Yet, in many of the paintings from the series depicting landscape, there are people around, suggesting the artist’s own loneliness. This painting was created in 1901, and was sold for $6,686,400 at Sotheby’s London in 2007. More information you can find here.

Haus in Asgaardstrand

It was in 1889 that Edvard Munch spent the first of many summers in Åsgårdstrand. It was here that Edvard Munch lived and found the inspiration for so many of his paintings. The house is now a small museum, open to the public. The painting Haus in Asgaardstrand is one of several created in this area. It was sold for $6,745,400 at Christie’s London in 2002. For more information, please click here.

Summer Day

This painting depicts one more place where Edvard Munch spent a lot of his time. It’s a joyful and optimistic depiction of a nice sunny day on the beach. It was created between 1904 and 1909. The painting was sold for $10,766,860 at Sotheby’s London in 2006. More information about the artworks you can find here.

Girls on a Bridge

Girls on a Bridge, one of Munch's most widely popular and acclaimed motifs, is a painting created during one of the most turbulent periods of his life. It’s largely described as Expressionist painting, where Munch uses the expressive power of color and line to arrive at a highly lyrical composition. This well-known painting was sold for $48,200,000 at Sotheby’s New York in 2016. For more information, click here.


After The Scream, Vampire is the most notable painting by Edvard Munch. This unforgettable picture features an intoxicating brew of sex, death and willful abandon in the form of a vampire seductress enveloping the object of her desire. At the heart of Munch's portrayal is the paradoxical nature of love, with its components of struggle and release, fear and desire. This amazing painting was sold for $38,162,500 at Sotheby’s New York in 2008. For more information, please click here!

The Scream

The most expansive painting by Edvard Munch ever sold is The Scream. The work shows a figure with an agonized expression against a landscape with a tumultuous orange sky. In his diary in an entry headed Nice 22 January 1892, Munch described his inspiration for the image: One evening I was walking along a path, the city was on one side and the fjord below. I felt tired and ill. I stopped and looked out over the fjord—the sun was setting, and the clouds turning blood red. I sensed a scream passing through nature; it seemed to me that I heard the scream. I painted this picture, painted the clouds as actual blood. The color shrieked. This became The Scream. The Scream has been the target of a number of thefts and theft attempts. Some damage has been suffered in these thefts. This iconic piece of art was sold for amazing price of $119,922,500 at Sotheby’s New York in 2012. For more information about the work, please click here!

All Images used for illustrative purposes only.

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