Tracey Emin meets Edvard Munch in new Royal Academy of Arts exhibition ‘The Loneliness of the Soul’

The Royal Academy of Arts presents a landmark exhibition bringing together for the first time the work of acclaimed British artist Tracey Emin RA (b.1963) and the Norwegian Expressionist Edvard Munch (1863-1944), two internationally renowned artists born 100 years apart.

Long fascinated and inspired by Edvard Munch’s work, Tracey Emin has chosen a selection of his masterpieces to accompany her own works for this special exhibition, which opened in London this week.

The exhibition features around 26 works by Emin, including paintings, some of which will be on display for the first time, as well as neons and sculpture. These will sit alongside a carefully considered selection of 18 oil paintings and watercolours by Munch, drawn from the rich collection and archives of MUNCH in Oslo, Norway.

Interweaving the work of both artists across three galleries, the exhibition demonstrates Emin and Munch exploring the same emotional landscape in their works with remarkable intensity, despite being separated by time and history.

In her formative years as an artist, Emin was drawn to the expressionism of paintings by both Edvard Munch, who is best known for his iconic painting The Scream, and Egon Schiele, their concerns in exploring the complex human condition and tortured psyche echoing many of her own burgeoning tendencies.

‘The Loneliness of the Soul’ focuses on themes of grief, loss and longing. Emin has focused on a group of Munch’s works which explore his complex relationship with the female sex. Early tragic events including the death of his mother when he was only five years old, followed a few years later by his beloved sister, and then a series of doomed love affairs, all contributed to this uneasy connection.

The works on display highlight Munch’s fascination with the depiction of women, their emotional states and the process of ageing. This selection includes well-known works such as The Death of Marat,1907 (MUNCH Oslo).

The revolutionary Marat was murdered by Charlotte Corday, who feared he would incite a civil war in France. History presents Marat as a hero and Corday as a traitor. The subject and history’s reading of it had resonance for Munch, who had just undergone a painful breakup with a woman he had been engaged to for a number of years, a trauma that was to haunt him throughout his life, and of which many expressions can be detected in his work.

This sense of personal disclosure and an intimate exploration of the body as a battleground is equally recognisable in works by Emin, for example in the deeply expressionistic It – didnt stop – I didnt stop, 2019.

Like Munch, Emin is also unafraid to examine the impact of events in her own life through her work. Paintings such as You were here like the ground underneath my feet and Because you left, both 2016, (Private collections), explore the complex emotions regarding loss and longing. Indeed, Emin’s paintings have long been a compellingly powerful expression of her inner life and psychological state.

Tracey Emin, You Kept It Coming, 2019. Acrylic on canvas. 152.3 x 152.3 x 3.5cm. The artist and Xavier Hufkens, Brussels © Tracey Emin. All rights reserved, DACS 2020


‘The Loneliness of the Soul’ runs until the end of February. The exhibition is organised by MUNCH, Oslo, in partnership with the Royal Academy of Arts. It is curated by Kari Brandtzæg at MUNCH and Edith Devaney at the Royal Academy of Arts.


Title: Tracey Emin/Edvard Munch: The Loneliness of the Soul

Dates: 7 December 2020 – 28 February 2021. Due to the pandemic restrictions, the exhibition run has been extended to 1 August 2021.

Venue: The Gabrielle Jungels-Winkler Galleries, Royal Academy of Arts, Burlington House, Piccadilly, London W1J 0BD

Opening hours: 10am – 6pm daily (last admission 5.30pm)

Tickets: From £15; concessions available; 50% off with National Art Pass; under 16s go free (T&Cs apply); Friends of the RA go free. Tickets can be booked in advance online or over the phone (0207 300 8090).

Admission: Advance booking is essential for everyone, including Friends of the RA. All visitors must have a pre- booked timed ticket to enter the building. Covid-related safety measures are in place, which are regularly updated. For the latest guidance, please read up online before your visit: royalacademy/visiting-and-safety-during-coronavirus

More information: visit

About the Royal Academy of Arts

The Royal Academy of Arts was founded by King George III in 1768. It has a unique position in being an independent, privately funded institution led by eminent artists and architects whose purpose is to be a clear, strong voice for art and artists. Its public programme promotes the creation, enjoyment and appreciation of the visual arts through exhibitions, education and debate.

The Royal Academy is an independent charity. It does not receive revenue funding from the government so is reliant upon the support of its visitors, donors, sponsors, patrons and loyal Friends.


Main, image, top painting by Edvard Munch, Crouching Nude 1917-1919. Oil on canvas, 70cm x 90cm, Munchmuseet