Munch, Edvard (Norwegian, 1863-1944)

Portrait of Dr. Henry Jacobsen

Reference Type:
In 1908, after years of intense alcoholism and a number of traumatic events, Munch entered the clinic of Dr. Daniel Jacobson. Rather than offer a diagnosis of a common untreatable psychotic illness that might have resulted in Munch’s being locked up for life—for example tertiary syphilis or schizophrenia—Jacobsen diagnosed accurately Munch’s alcoholic psychosis and during the artist’s lengthy stay treated him with rest, good food, baths, and “electrification.” Dr. Jacobsen was not fond of this portrait, a result perhaps of Munch’s feelings during the process of its creation: “when I painted him I was the king, I controlled who wanted to control me.” His feelings about Jacobsen’s demeanor are also reflected in the representation: “I have put him in the flames of hell. He stands looking down as a pope upon his white-clad nurses and us, the pale, sick ones….When I was painting him, Jacobsen begged for mercy and he became as gentle as a dove.” Notes by Dr. Linda Pessar and Mariann Smith Quotes from Prideaux, Sue. Edvard Munch: Behind the Scream. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2005, pp. 250-251.
Physician-Patient Relations
Power Relations
History of Medicine
Munch Museum, Oslo, Norway