... and get ready to travel if you aspire to 'know' the paintings of Edvard Munch (1863-1944). Looking over the reproductions in this small-format Taschen edition, you'll quickly notice that the large majority of them are in the museums of Oslo and Bergen, in the artist's native Norway. Yes, there are some very fine Munchs in Berlin, Lübeck, and Stuttgart, and a sampling in America. Few painters of the enormous stature of Edvard Munch, however, are so 'concentrated' in their homelands. But it's not inappropriate for Munch; it's as hard to comprehend Munch's vision without Norway as it is to comprehend modern Norway without Ibsen and Munch.
On the other hand, as you'll read in the text of this Taschen book, by Ulrich Bischoff, Edvard Much is generally perceived among art historians as the most significant "bridge" between the French post-impressionists and the German expressionists. That's the sort of insight one can draw from the plates in this book, some of which seem remarkably close to Cezanne and Monet while others leap forward over van Gogh to Kokoschka and Beckmann. Yet Munch is one of the most 'recognizable' of painters; it's rare to see a painting of his for the first time, across a gallery, without instantly identifying the artist. Chiefly that's because of his unique combination of the most formal vertical/horizontal axis compositions with the most informal, improvisational brushwork and his thin washes of color.
The utility of a book like this is limited, I think, to being an "aide to memory". If you've never seen at least a sample of Munch's paintings, you can't possibly imagine their impact from these little shiny pages. Munch was first a painter's painter, in terms of building an audience, but his paintings are less about Art than about Life. He himself grouped his works in what he called "Friezes of Life", and his themes were always the stages of life - childhood/youth/maturity/age - and the basic involvements of life - sexual intimacy/hostility, sickness, loneliness, and death. Munch seldom painted anything to be decorative. He sought emotional impact above all. Many of his paintings are fearsomely grim, to be honest about them, and dark and yes, depressing. But don't think you can "live without them" until you've had a chance to experience them.