In 1881, after a failed period training to become an engineer, he enrolled at the Royal School of Art and Design of Christiania (now Oslo) where he painted his first self-portrait and managed to sell two paintings.
In 1884, attended Frits Thaulow's 'open-air academy' at Modum; entered Christiana's Bohemia of naturalist painters and writers noted for their advanced ideas on sexual ethics and morals. In 1885, he went to Paris for the first time where he was heavily influenced by the Impressionists and Symbolists particularly Gauguin with his simplified forms and non-naturalistic colors. Munch exhibited many of his paintings during this period.
In 1892, he exhibited at the Kunstlerverein (Artists' Union) in Berlin, where his work proved so controversial that the show had to be closed. Now famous, Munch moved to Berlin the same year where he lived on and off until 1908.
In the 1890's Munch embarked on his 'Frieze of Life' which he described as "a poem of life, love and death".
Informed by his dark neuroses, with themes such as jealousy, sickness and sexual desire, his paintings make up an intense depiction of extreme psychological states. The most famous of his paintings is 'The Scream' (1895), a disturbing depiction of anxiety and melancholy. Munch went on to translate many of his paintings into etching, lithography and woodcut.
In 1908, after prolonged heavy drinking, overwork and a failed love affair, the artist suffered a complete mental breakdown and he entered a clinic for the next eight months. After this, his work changed dramatically. The intense emotions disappeared and his paintings became far more extroverted, characterized by brighter colors and a renewed vigor. He painted a series of large oil paintings for the University Hall of Oslo (1910-1915) conveying an optimistic perspective on nature, science and history. Thereafter, however, he took up the life of a recluse, and his work once again became fueled by his profound sensibilities.
The last of his self-portraits, 'Between the Clock and the Bed' (1940-1942), completed two years before his death in 1944, portrayed his ailing body teetering on the brink of eternity.