Tracey Emin/Edvard Munch: The Loneliness of the Soul

Eleanor Williams

Virtual Exhibition 15th November 2020 – 28th February 2021 The exhibition held at the Royal Academy this …

Virtual Exhibition

15th November 2020 – 28th February 2021

The exhibition held at the Royal Academy this winter is a duet between two radical artists who bear their souls and depict raw emotion in their work. Alongside over 25 of Tracey Emin’s works hangs 18 oil paintings and watercolours by the Norweigian artist Edvard Munch, chosen by the famous artist herself. The pieces of Emin’s, which exude harrowing energy and reflect on her painful past, are paired with the more static melancholy work of Munch. “The Loneliness of the Soul” is a very personal window into the psyche of both artists: Emin who is renowned for her utterly open works and Munch, the pioneer of Expressionism. 

It – didn’t stop – I didn’t stop, 2019, Tracey Emin


The two artists’ work cannot be separated from their experience, each piece embodies human condition and confronts viewers with the exploration of their tortured psyche. Edvard Munch, called his work “sjaelemaleri” which roughly translates to “soul painting”, an apt description of the art on display. The show works as a dialogue between the two artists, with most depictions being the female figure they reflect on the next as if responding to each other’s personal struggles and importance of authentic expression. 

In comparison to Emin’s frantic line work, Munch takes on a much calmer approach in his paintings, they are however, equally as heart-wrenching and largely autobiographical. Two paintings that really caught my eye were the works: The Death of Marat painted by Edvard Munch in 1907 and Tracy Emin’s Because you left (2016). The title of Munch’s painting, The Death of Marat, refers to the murder of a french revolutionary, that took place in 1793, yet the real subject matter of the artwork is Munch’s own failed relationship. The nude on the bed is him. This visceral depiction of his own trauma is much like that of Emin’s Because you left, depicting what one believes to be her naked form laid out on a bed. The painting is made up of fast lines and running pigment implying bodily secretion, blood, sweat and tears, the liquids left behind from her grim past.


The Death of Marat, 1907, Edvard Munch


Because you left, 2016, Tracey Emin


“Tracey Emin/Edvard Munch: The Loneliness of the Soul” explores the new work of Tracey Emin, an honest display of her trauma and past created with raw expression that flows from her frenzied line work to her languid figures. The pairing of her pieces with Munch’s radical paintings not only highlights the influence of the Norweigan painter but it also works as a celebration of artists who are not afraid to delve into the inner workings of their minds. The artworks on display unapologetically embrace struggle and raw emotion, admirable objectives in times like today.    

The exhibition is on until 28th February 2021. Unfortunately due to the lockdown the Royal Academy is not opening its doors to visitors, however, there is a virtual tour of the exhibition on their website at



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