EDVARD MUNCH (1863-1944)
EDVARD MUNCH (1863-1944)
EDVARD MUNCH (1863-1944)
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EDVARD MUNCH (1863-1944)
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EDVARD MUNCH (1863-1944)

Karl Jensen-Hjell

EDVARD MUNCH (1863-1944)
Karl Jensen-Hjell
signed and dated 'E Munch 1885.' (lower left)
oil on canvas
75 x 39 ½ in. (190.6 x 100.4 cm.)
Painted in 1885
Karl Jensen-Hjell, Norway (acquired from the artist).
Dr. Henrik Arnold Thaulow Dedichen, Horten, Norway (bequest from the above, 1889).
Dr. Claudius Lucien Dedichen, Norway (by descent from the above, circa 1935).
Thomas Olsen, Norway (by 1953).
By descent from the above to the present owner.
J. Nilssen, "Edvard Munch" in Kunst og Kultur, 1913, vol. 4, p. 87.
J. Thiis, Edvard Munch og hans samtid. Slekten, Livet og kunsten. Geniet, Oslo, 1933, p. 105 (illustrated).
C. Gierløff, Edvard Munch Selv, Oslo, 1953, p. 55.
I. Langaard, Edvard Munch: Modningsår, Oslo, 1960, p. 16 (illustrated, fig. 3).
O. Thue, "Edvard Munch og Christian Krohg" in Kunst og Kultur, Oslo, 1973, vol. 4,p. 245.
R. Stang, Edvard Munch: The Man and his Art, New York, 1977, p. 306, no. 61 (illustrated, p. 50).
P. Hodin, Edvard Munch, London, 1977, p. 37, no. 24 (illustrated).
R. Stang, Edvard Munch: The Man and the Artist, London, 1979, p. 58.
A. Eggum, Edvard Munch: Peintures–ésquisses–études, Paris, 1983, p. 41, no. 72 (illustrated).
R. Heller, Munch: His Life and Work, London, 1984, p. 31, no. 19 (illustrated).
A. Eggum, Munch and Photography, New Haven, 1989, p. 25.
A. Bøe, Edvard Munch, Oslo, 1992, p. 13, no. 4 (illustrated in color).
A. Affentranger-Kirchrath, “Die Frage nach dem Menschen: Porträtmalerei um 1900 am Beispiel Ferdinand Hodlers und Edvard Munchs” in Zeitschrift für Schweizerische Archäologie und Kunstgeschichte, 1994, vol. 51, no. 4, p. 298 (illustrated, fig. 4).
S. Prideaux, Edvard Munch: Behind the Scream, London, 2005, no. 34 (illustrated).
F. Høifødt, "The Kristiania Bohemia reflected in the art of the young Edvard Munch” in Edvard Munch: An Anthology, Oslo, 2006, p. 23.
G. Woll, Edvard Munch: Complete Paintings, Catalogue Raisonné, 1880-1897, London, 2008, vol. I, p. 138, no. 122 (illustrated in color, p. 139).
Kristiania, Nationalgalleriet, Den 2den aarlige Kunstudstilling, October-November 1885, p. 7, no. 72b (titled Portraet).
Kristiania, Studentersamfundets lille sal, Edv. Munchs Maleriudstilling, April-May 1889, no. 40.
Kristiania, Juveler Tostrups Gaard, Edvard Munchs maleriudstilling, September-October 1892, no. 41 (titled Portraet).
Berlin, Verein Berliner Künstler. Architektenhaus; Dusseldorf, Eduard Schulte and Cologne, Eduard Schulte, Sonderausstellung des Malers Eduard Munch, November-December 1892, no. 50.
Berlin, Equitable-Palast, Sonderausstellung des Malers Eduard Munch, 1892-1893, no. 49 (titled Portrait von Maler Jensen).
Copenhagen, Georg Kleis. Skandinavisk Kunstudstillings lokaler, Eduard Munch’s samlede arbejder, February-March 1893, no. 49.
Breslau, Kunstverein Lichtenberg; Dresden, Theodor Lichtenberg Nachfolger. Victoriahaus and Munich, Kunstverein Lichtenberg, Sonderausstellung des Malers Eduard Munch, 1893, no. 48 or 49 (titled Portrait von Maler Jensen).
Stockholm, Galerie Blanch i Konstforeningens locale, Edvard Munchs utställning, October 1894, no. 8.
(possibly) Paris, Salon des Indépendants, 1897, no. 799 (titled Portrait).
Kristiania, Blomqvist Kunsthandel, Portraetudstilling, September-October 1910.
Oslo, Nasjonalgalleriet, Edvard Munch, June-July 1927, no. 18.
Oslo, Kunstnernes Hus, Høstutstillingen gjennom de forste 25 ar, 1882-1907, September-October 1932, no. 198.
Oslo, Kunstnernes Hus, Edvard Munch utstilling: Malerier, akvareller, tegninger, grafik, 1951, no. 31 (illustrated).
Kunsthaus Zurich, Edvard Munch, June-August 1952, p. 23, no. 1.
Sāo Paulo, Museu de Arte Moderna de Sāo Paulo, Il Bienal, 1953-1954, no. 1 (titled Retrato de um pintor).
Venice, La biennale di Venezia, 1954, no. 4
Munich, Haus der Kunst and Cologne, Wallraff-Richartz-Museum, Ausstellung Edvard Munch, 1954-1955, p. 18, no. 5.
Copenhagen, Statens Museum for Kunst and Odense, Fyn Stiftsmuseum, Kunstforeningens Edvard Munch Udstilling, March 1955, p. 19, no. 5.
Kunstmuseum Bern, Edvard Munch, October-November 1958, p. 19, no. 2 (illustrated).
Vienna, Akademie der Bildenden Künste, Edvard Munch. Wiener Festwochen, 1959, no. 2 (illustrated).
Muzeum Narodowe W Warszawie, Edvard Munch: Malarstwo i grafika, November-December 1959, p. 15, no. 2 (illustrated, pl. IV).
Frankfurt am Main, Steinernes Haus, Edvard Munch, November 1962-January 1963, no. 1 (illustrated).
Oslo Nasjonalgalleriet, 150 Jahre Norwegische Malerei, June-July 1964, p. 5, no. 52.
Kunsthalle Kiel, 1964, no. 54.
New York, The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Edvard Munch, October 1965-January 1966, p. 29, no. 4 (illustrated).
Schaffhausen, Museum zu Allerheiligen Schaffhausen, Edvard Munch, 1968, no. 4.
Stockholm, Nationalmuseum, Höjdpunkter i norsk konst, 1968, no. 231.
Aarhus Kunstmuseum, Edvard Munch, September-October 1975, no. 150 (illustrated, pl. 35).
Humblebaek, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Edvard Munch, October 1975-January 1976, no. 1 (with incorrect dimensions).
Kunsthalle Kiel, Edvard Munch: Gemälde und Zeichnungen aus einer norwegischen Privatsammlung, January-April 1979, p. 18, no. 2 (illustrated in color, p. 19).
Museum Folkwang Essen and Kunsthaus Zurich, Edvard Munch, September 1987-February 1988, no. 7 (illustrated in color).
Oslo, Munchmuseet, Munch Portretter, January-May1994, pp. 287-288, no. 8 (illustrated in color, p. 35).
Tokyo, Setagaya Art Museum, Edvard Munch, April-June 1997, p. 45, no. 6 (illustrated in color).
Lugano, Museo d’Arte Moderna, Edvard Munch, September-December 1998, p. 219, no. 4 (illustrated; illustrated again in color, pl. 27).
Rome, Complesso del Vittoriano, Munch, March-June 2005, p. 84, no. 1 (illustrated, p. 85).
Sale room notice
This work has been requested for the exhibition Edvard Munch: Portraits to be held at the National Portrait Gallery, London from 20 March-29 June 2025.

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Lot Essay

The Norwegian painter Karl Jensen-Hjell was “supercilious, shabby-elegant, self-assertive, sexually magnetic, notoriously loose-living,” who, dying of tuberculosis, “lived life to the hilt” (S. Prideaux, op. cit., 2019, p. 67). Perhaps it was with this in mind that, in 1885, he commissioned Edvard Munch to paint his portrait, agreeing to pay for the necessary materials as well as a dinner at the Grand Hotel in Oslo, then known as Kristiania. Munch first cast Jensen-Hjell in Tête-à-tête (Woll, no. 116; Munchmuseet, Oslo) before turning his eye towards to the life-sized portrait. Standing more than six feet in height, the resulting painting is a striking tribute to Jensen-Hjell’s rakish confidence. As Sue Prideaux wrote, “Everything about the picture was a gesture of defiance at the established social order, from its sheer size to the austere intensity of its vision” (ibid.). Posed in the format so often reserved for public figures, Karl Jensen-Hjell confronts the history of orthodox portraiture in its celebration of an unconventional life.
At the same time that this painting was conceived, an emerging Bohemianism was fomenting in Kristiania. Artists and writers who had previously left for Paris and Munich were now returning to the capital, bringing with them new political and artistic movements. Progressive ideologies regarding sexual autonomy and civil rights flourished as did Naturalism, which “with its emphasis on truth in vision, freedom of expression through facture, and the formation of alternative exhibition societies,” was closely tied to Impressionism and the visual arts (J. Clarke, Becoming Edvard Munch: Influence, Anxiety, Myth, exh. cat., The Art Institute of Chicago, 2009, p. 11). These were exciting years in the city, a far cry from the strict, conservativism that Munch’s father espoused, and the artist found himself drawn to the avant-garde circles in which figures like Jensen-Hjell participated.
Munch, too, had travelled to Paris, spending three weeks in the French capital on a trip paid for by Frits Thaulow earlier that year. He passed his days in cafes and wandering museums and galleries where he saw paintings by Claude Monet and Édouard Manet, among others. “Judging from the works then on display in the city, and Munch’s later absorption of some of their visual codes,” writes Jay A. Clarke, “there is every indication that this trip was tremendously important to his artistic development” (ibid., p. 26). Inspired by his immersion in Paris’ avantgarde, Munch entirely transformed his idiom, and Karl Jensen-Hjell bears witness to this evolution.
Following his return to Norway, Munch was eager to be pictorially daring. The rapid brushwork of Karl Jensen-Hjell conjures images of Monet’s impressionistic canvases, evident in the lavish application of paint and richly variegated colors. The subject and format, however, are pure Manet—specifically the artist’s stately images of beggars, actors, and all those who otherwise would not necessarily be treated to a formal portrait. This was not Munch’s first exposure to the French modernist: his mentor Christian Krogh was devoted to Manet. But Munch’s painting was far from a copy. Instead, it evinces visual strategies that would later be hallmarks of his practice, namely, the neutral, empty ground, defined boundary between floor and wall, and emotional potency. The full-length portrait too would become a central motif within Munch’s practice, employed in both self-portraits and commissioned paintings; the vast majority of these works are held in public collections around the world.
When it was first exhibited at the 1885 Kristiania Autumn exhibition, Karl Jensen-Hjell caused a sensation. With regards to both its subject and style, the established art world deemed the painting a “moral scandal” (R. Stang, Edvard Munch: The Man and the Artist, London, 1979, p. 58). In the Aftenposten, an anonymous reviewer wrote, “It does not even has a properly prepared ground; it is just daubed straight on the canvas. It almost looks as if it has been painted with the colors that were left over on the palette from another painting. Various of these splotches have landed on the face, amongst them a speck of white which represents the one and only eye, which the painter has neglected to depict, giving us instead the impressionistic effect of the white reflection from a monocle” (reprinted in op. cit., 2019, p. 67). In short order, however, the painting became emblematic of both Munch’s bold new vision and Norway’s new cultural moment. Indeed, that Karl Jensen-Hjell has been exhibited so widely since this initial unveiling is a testament to its enduring social and art historical importance.
Jensen-Hjell bequeathed his portrait to Henrik Arnold Thaulow Dedichen. The work remained in this family for several years before it was acquired by Thomas Olsen, Munch’s neighbor, friend, and patron. Olsen assembled an outstanding collection of canvases by Munch, including a version of The Scream, and was instrumental in safeguarding the artist’s art during the Second World War.

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