Van Gogh Museum Adds Its First Munch's Portrait to Permanent Collection

Van Gogh Museum, an art museum dedicated to the works of Vincent van Gogh and his contemporaries in the Netherlands, unveiled its latest addition on Tuesday. The museum acquired a Portrait of Felix Auerbach, created by Edvard Munch in 1906, for an undisclosed amount from a private collection.  

Van Gogh Museum in the Netherlands

Munch's Portrait of Felix Auerbach

The painting went on public display for the first time on 23 January, the 74th anniversary of Munch's death. It is the only Munch portrait in a Dutch collection and one of two Munch canvasses in the country. The other painting was a figure piece titled "Two Girls under an Apple Tree in Bloom", now kept in the collection of Museum Boijmans van Beuningen in Rotterdam.

Munch's Two Girls under an Apple Tree in Bloom. Collection of Museum Boijmans van Beuningen, Rotterdam

The portrait is presented on the third floor, where the museum highlights the influence that Vincent van Gogh had on his contemporaries and the first generation of artists to follow him. It is put alongside other paintings by modern artists like Kees van Dongen and Jan Sluijters.

Munch's Self-Portrait. 1881 - 1882

Munch's The Scream. 1893

Edvard Munch (1863 - 1944), Norwegian expressionist artist, is best known for his iconic painting The Scream. He discovered Van Gogh works around 1890 and was fascinated with them. Van Gogh had been an important source of inspiration to Munch even though the two artists probably never met.

Van Gogh's Self-Portrait. 1889

Sharing many similarities artistically and personally, both painters were committed to the modernization of art, and developed an expressive and colorful visual language to express the universal emotions of human existence. The affinities between them are powerfully and persuasively apparent in their portraits in particular.

Munch was commissioned to paint the portrait by German physicist Felix Auerbach (1856 -1933), who was a professor at the time at Jena University. Munch created the portrait in February 1906 for the sum of 500 marks.

A photograph of Felix Auerbach (1856–1933)

Set against an orange-red background, the portrait depicts an assertive Auerbach gazing steadily and holding a cigar. The expressive use of colour in the painting echoes an approach that Van Gogh frequently adopted too.

Museum director Axel Rüger and curator Maite van Dijk next to Edvard Munch’s Portrait of Felix Auerbach (1906)

"To be able to enrich our collection with a marvellous painting by Munch in which his affinity with Van Gogh is also clearly visible, is the fulfilment of a long-cherished dream", museum director Axel Rüger says.