Did you know … that Edvard Munch painted on cardboard?

Why did Edvard Munch choose such a fragile material, and what consequences does this have for conservation?

Several of Edvard Munch’s art works are made on cardboard, a material which is as sensitive as paper. Some of them have previously been glued onto wooden fibre boards, a treatment that is no longer in use. This is because the wooden plate contains acid substances, which can darken the cardboard, but also because the treatment is irreversible – the fragility of the paint layers and cardboard makes it too risky to separate the parts.

The artwork Portrait of a Man originally had another motif on the back, but at one point it was decided to separate the two motives by dividing the cardboard lengthwise. The four versions of The Scream, two located at MUNCH, one the National Museum and one in a private collection, are also made on cardboard. Why Munch chose this material instead of canvas is a mystery, but the museum’s conservators are constantly working to preserve the fragile works, and in this way ensuring that they can be enjoyed by the public for many years to come.

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