Edvard Munch. The Scream. Pastel on board. 1895. © 2012 The Munch Museum/The Munch-Ellingsen Group/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

MoMA Displays Privately Held The Scream through April, 2013

Edvard Munch. Angst. 1896, signed 1897. Woodcut. Composition: 45.7 x 37.6 cm; sheet: 55.7 x 44.8 cm. Publisher: Edvard Munch, Paris. Printer: Auguste Clot, Paris. Edition: fewer than 50. The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Purchase. 1174.1968. © 2012 The Munch Museum/The Munch-Ellingsen Group/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

Edvard Munch. Self Portrait. 1895, signed 1896. Lithograph. composition: 45.7 x 32 cm; sheet: 58.3 x 43 cm. Publisher: Edvard Munch, Berlin. Printer: M.W. Lassally, Berlin. Edition: approximately 200 in several compositional variations. The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of James L. Goodwin in memory of Philip L. Goodwin. 71.1959. © 2012 The Munch Museum/The Munch-Ellingsen Group/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

 

Museum of Modern Art
11 West 53 Street
212-708-9400
New York
Galleries for Painting and Sculpture
The Scream
October 24, 2012-April 29, 2013

Edvard Munch's The Scream (1895), among the most celebrated and recognized images in art history, goes on view at The Museum of Modern Art for a period of six months. Of the four versions of The Scream made by Munch between 1893 and 1910, this pastel-on-board from 1895 is the only one remaining in private hands. The three other versions are in the museum collections in Norway. The Scream is lent by a private collector.

"The startling power of Munch's original work endures almost despite the image's present-day ubiquity," noted Ann Temkin, The Marie-Josée and Henry Kravis Chief Curator of Painting and Sculpture, who is organizing the installation. "The visual subtlety and complexity of this composition can't be summed up in a cliché."

A haunting rendition of a hairless figure on a bridge under a yellow-orange sky, The Scream has captured popular imagination since its making. The image was originally conceived by Munch as part of his Frieze of Life series, which explored modern life, focusing on themes of love, angst, and death. Especially concerned with the expressive representation of emotions and personal relationships, Munch was associated with international development of Symbolism in the 1890s and recognized as a precursor of 20th-century Expressionism.

The Scream is the name given to each of four versions of a composition, created as both paintings and pastels, by Munch between 1893 and 1910. The Scream of Nature is the title Munch gave to these works, all showing a figure with an agonized expression against a landscape with a red sky. The landscape in the background is the Oslofjord, seen from Ekeberg, Oslo, Norway.

Munch created the four versions in various media. National Gallery, Oslo, holds one of two painted versions (1893). The Munch Museum holds the other painted version (1910) and a pastel version from 1893. The three versions have not traveled for years.

The fourth version (pastel, 1895) sold for $120 million at Sotheby's Impressionist and Modern art auction on May 2, 2012 to financier Leon Black, the highest nominal price paid for a painting at auction.

Also in 1895, Munch created a lithograph stone of the image. Of the lithograph prints produced by Munch, several examples survive. Only approximately four dozen prints were made before the original stone was resurfaced by the printer in Munch's absence.

The Scream has been the target of several high-profile art thefts. In 1994, the version in the National Gallery was stolen. It was recovered several months later.

The Scream is installed in MoMA's galleries for painting and sculpture along with Munch prints from the Museum collection.

Edvard Munch. Madonna 1895-1902, (not on display) Lithograph and woodcut. composition: 50.5 x 44.5 cm; sheet (irregular): 85.6 x 59.33 cm. Publisher: Edvard Munch, Berlin. Printer: M.W. Lassally, Berlin. Edition: approximately 150 in several color and compositional variations. The William B. Jaffee and Evelyn A.J. Hall Collection. The Museum of Modern Art, New York. © 2012 The Munch Museum/The Munch-Ellingsen Group/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

Edvard Munch. Det syke barn I (The Sick Child I). 1896. Lithograph. Composition: 42.2 x 57 cm; sheet (irreg.): 50.6 x 66.4 cm. Publisher: Edvard Munch, Paris. Printer: Auguste Clot, Paris. Edition: approximately 90 in several color variations. The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Riva Castleman Endowment Fund, The Philip and Lynn Straus Foundation Fund, Edward John Noble Foundation Fund, Mary Ellen Meehan Fund, Donald B. Marron Fund, Johanna and Leslie J. Garfield Fund, Richard A. Epstein Fund, Miles O. Epstein Fund, Sarah C. Epstein Fund, and The Cowles Charitable Trust. 353.2002. © 2012 The Munch Museum/The Munch-Ellingsen Group/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

 

Edvard Munch, Self-Portrait: Between the Clock and the Bed, 1940-1943, Munch Museum, © Munch Museum/Munch-EllingsendGroup/DACS 2012.

Edvard Munch, a Thoroughly Modern, 20th Century Artist

Edvard Munch, Starry Night, 1922-1924, Munch Museum, © Munch Museum/Munch-EllingsendGroup/DACS 2012.

Edvard Munch, The Girls on the Bridge, 1927, Munch Museum, © Munch Museum/Munch-EllingsendGroup/DACS 2012.

 

Tate Modern
Bankside
+ 44 (0)20 7887 8888
London
Edvard Munch: The Modern Eye
June 28-October 14, 2012

Edvard Munch: The Modern Eye reassesses the work of this Norwegian painter. It proposes a ground-breaking dialogue between the artist’s paintings and drawings made in the first half of the 20th century and his often overlooked interest in the rise of modern media, including photography, film and the rebirth of stage production.

Few other modern artists are better known and yet less understood than Munch (1863-1944). He is often presented primarily as a 19th century painter, a Symbolist or a pre-Expressionist, but this exhibition aims to show how he engaged emphatically with 20th century concerns that were thoroughly representative of the modernity of the age. Organised in close cooperation with the Centre Pompidou in Paris and the Munch Museum in Oslo, it features over 60 carefully-selected paintings and 50 photographs, alongside his lesser-known filmic work.

These reveal Munch’s interest in current affairs and how his paintings were inspired by scenes observed in the street or incidents reported in the media. Far from confining himself to the studio, he frequently worked outdoors to capture everyday life.

The show also examines how Munch often repeated a single motif over a long period of time in order to re-work it. It gathers together different versions of his most celebrated works, such as The Sick Child from 1907 and 1925 and The Girls on the Bridge from 1902 and 1907, and others from collections including the Gothenberg Konstmuseum and the Nasjonalmuseet, Oslo.

Like other painters such as Bonnard and Vuillard, Munch adopted photography in the early years of the 20th century and his photographic activities were largely focused on self-portraiture, which he obsessively restaged and reworked. Self-portraits also lay at the heart of Munch’s painted oeuvre. In the 1930s he developed an eye disease and made poignant works which charted the effects of his degenerating sight. His last work, on display here, was one such self-portrait.

Munch’s use of prominent foregrounds and strong diagonals reference the advancing technological developments in cinema and photography. Creating the illusion of actors moving towards the spectator, as if looming out from a cinema screen, this pictorial device can be seen in many of Munch’s most innovative works such as On the Operating Table 1902-03 and The Yellow Log 1912 from the Munch Museum. Munch was also keenly aware of the visual effects brought on by the introduction of electric lighting on theatre stages and used this to create ethereal drama in, for example, his 1907 Green Room series.

The duality of presence and erasure is further explored in key works such as The Sun 1910-13 and Starry Night 1922-24, where matter takes on an ephemeral or ghostlike appearance.

The exhibition was organised by the Centre Pompidou, Musée national d’art moderne, Paris, in cooperation with the Munch Museum, Oslo and in association with Tate Modern, London. It was curated by Angela Lampe and Clément Chéroux at the Centre Pompidou and by Nicholas Cullinan at Tate Modern assisted by Shoair Mavlian. A fully illustrated catalogue is available from Tate Publishing.

 

Edvard Munch, The Sun, 1910-13, Oil on canvas, 162 x 205, Munch Museum, © Munch Museum/Munch-EllingsendGroup/DACS 2012.

 

Edvard Munch, Self-Portrait with Hat (Right Profile) at Ekely, 1931, © Munch Museum.

 

Edvard Munch in his studio in Ekely, Photo, © Munch Museum / Munch Ellingsen Group, Pictoright Amsterdam 2010.

Edvard Munch's Experiments in Expressionism at the Fin de Siecle

Edvard Munch, Felling Area, 1912, oil on canvas, 107 x 127 cm, European collection, © Munch Museum / Munch Ellingsen Group, Pictoright Amsterdam 2010.

Edvard Munch, Madonna, 1896-1902, litho in five colours, 60,5 x 44,7 cm, Vita Brevis Private collection, courtesy Ars Long.

 

Kunsthal Rotterdam
Museumpark, Westzeedijk 341
+31 (0)10 - 44 00 301
Rotterdam
Edvard Munch
September 18-February 20, 2011

"We should no longer paint interiors with men reading and women knitting. We should paint living people who breathe, feel, suffer and love."

— Edvard Munch (1889)

Voor het eerst wordt in Nederland uitgebreid aandacht besteed aan Edvard Munch (1863-1944); een van de meest fascinerende kunstenaars uit de laat negentiende — en begin twintigste eeuw. De Kunsthal Rotterdam presenteert met ruim honderdvijftig schilderijen en werken op papier een overzicht van het oeuvre van de Noorse schilder, die bij het grote publiek vooral bekend is door het schilderij ‘De Schreeuw’ (1893)

Alle werken in de tentoonstelling zijn afkomstig uit particuliere collecties en worden éénmalig samengebracht; een absolute buitenkans voor iedereen die het oeuvre van Edvard Munch (beter) wil leren kennen. Munch schildert over het leven, over de liefde en de dood; diepe emoties zoals eenzaamheid, angst en innerlijke spanningen zijn de leidraad in zijn werk. Door de thematiek, de krachtige compositie, vloeiende lijnvoering en het bijzondere kleur — en materiaalgebruik raken zijn schilderijen ons tot op de dag van vandaag.

Experiment en expressie. Edvard Munch is van grote invloed op de ontwikkeling van het expressionisme in de laat negentiende- en begin twintigste eeuw. Vanaf het begin van zijn kunstenaarschap in 1880 breekt hij radicaal met alle heersende conventies in de kunst. Als reactie op de verstarde burgerlijke moraal van zijn tijd sluit hij zich aan bij vooruitstrevende kunstenaarskringen in Kristiania (het toenmalige Oslo).

Op zoek naar zijn eigen artistieke expressie experimenteert hij met verschillende materialen en technieken. Hij absorbeert invloeden van het actuele naturalisme, impressionisme en symbolisme en verwerkt deze in een persoonlijke vormentaal. Munch haalt de inspiratie voor de thematiek van zijn schilderijen uit de literatuur van schrijvers als August Strindberg en Henrik Ibsen.

De tegenslagen in zijn leven, zoals de dood van zijn moeder en zusje, laten diepe sporen bij hem achter. Met buitengewone gevoeligheid verbeeldt hij de machteloosheid en paniek die dood, ziekte en verval met zich meebrengen in zijn schilderijen, litho’s, tekeningen en grafiek.

Overweldigend oeuvre. De tentoonstelling laat de ontwikkeling en vorming van Munchs overweldigende oeuvre zien. De opening van zijn eerste grote tentoonstelling in de Vereniging van Berlijnse Kunstenaars in Berlijn in 1892 leidt tot een enorm schandaal. Het vluchtige en fragmentarische in zijn werk, wat typerend zal zijn voor de moderne kunst aan het begin van de twintigste eeuw, wordt door de pers genadeloos bekritiseerd. De tentoonstelling sluit vroegtijdig. Alle commotie maakt Munch op slag beroemd in Duitsland. Tijdens zijn verblijf in Parijs maakt Munch veel grafiek waaronder de beroemde serie litho’s van Madonna: een betoverend vrouwenportret omlijst door spermatozoïden en vergezeld door een embryo met doodskop. Leven en dood, twee hoofdthema’s in Munchs werk, komen hier compositorisch verrassend samen.

Avant-garde. Bij zijn terugkeer in Noorwegen in 1909 schildert Munch in een groot openluchtatelier in Kragerø onderwerpen uit de directe omgeving. Hij blijft zichzelf vernieuwen. Door zijn schilderijen in de buitenlucht aan slechte weersomstandigheden bloot te stellen, wat geen enkele kunstenaar ooit voor hem deed, laat Munch letterlijk het verval in zijn werk toe. In zijn poging de meest fundamentele ervaringen van het leven vast te leggen, maakt Munch van bepaalde werken steeds andere versies. Kenmerkende motieven als de geabstraheerde figuur, het in rythmische lijnen geschilderde landschap en het monumentale portret keren regelmatig terug. Edvard Munch wordt pas op latere leeftijd erkend als een van de belangrijkste moderne kunstenaars aan het begin van de twintigste eeuw.

Edvard Munch, Winter Night, 1923, oil on canvas, 80 x 100 cm, European collection, © Munch Museum / Munch Ellingsen Group / Pictoright Amsterdam 2010.

 

Edvard Munch, Anxiety, 1896, color lithograph in black and red on cream card, The Epstein Family Collection, © Copyright Munch Museum/Munch Ellingsen Group/ARS, NY 2009.

Edvard Munch, The Sick Child I, 1896/1896-1897, color transfer lithograph in red, cherry, and yellow with hand coloring on thin tan card, Collection of Catherine Woodard and Nelson Blitz Jr., © Copyright Munch Museum/Munch Ellingsen Group/ARS, NY 2009.

The Breadth of Human Experience as Reflected in Edvard Munch's Prints

Edvard Munch, Vampire II, 1895/c. 1913, color lithograph in black and red, and one woodblock sawn into four pieces in blue, green, and beige with hand coloring on thin golden Japan paper, The Epstein Family Collection, © Copyright Munch Museum/Munch Ellingsen Group/ARS, NY 2009.

Edvard Munch, Evening on Karl Johan Street, 1895, lithograph in black with hand coloring on white thick wove paper, Collection of Catherine Woodard and Nelson Blitz Jr., © Copyright Munch Museum/Munch Ellingsen Group/ARS, NY 2009.

Edvard Munch, Waves of Love, 1896, lithograph in black with hand coloring on thick whitish China paper, The Epstein Family Collection, © Copyright Munch Museum/Munch Ellingsen Group/ARS, NY 2009.

Edvard Munch, Girls on the Jetty, 1912-1913/1913, lithograph in black with hand coloring on thick textured tan wove paper, The Epstein Family Collection, © Copyright Munch Museum/Munch Ellingsen Group/ARS, NY 2009.

Edvard Munch, Two Women on the Shore, 1898/1906-1907, color woodcut, from two pieces of one woodblock sawn into three, plus one linoleum block, in black, orange red, gray blue, yellow, and light violet brown on thick wove paper, National Gallery of Art, Washington, Print Purchase Fund (Rosenwald Collection) and Ailsa Mellon Bruce Fund, 1978, © Copyright Munch Museum/Munch Ellingsen Group/ARS, NY 2009.

Edvard Munch, Towards the Forest I, 1897/1900-1908, color woodcut, from two woodblocks, one sawn into two pieces, in black, beige, and blue green on thin cream Japan paper, Collection of Catherine Woodard and Nelson Blitz Jr., © Copyright Munch Museum/Munch Ellingsen Group/ARS, NY 2009.

Edvard Munch, The Kiss III, 1898, color woodcut, from two blocks in gray and black on thick gray China paper, The Epstein Family Collection, © Copyright Munch Museum/Munch Ellingsen Group/ARS, NY 2009.

Edvard Munch, Two Women on the Shore, 1898/c. 1917 or later (1920s?), color woodcut, from one woodblock sawn into three pieces and one stencil, in black, orange, red, green, and light blue overprinted with light beige on medium cream wove paper, National Gallery of Art, Washington, Print Purchase Fund (Rosenwald Collection) and Ailsa Mellon Bruce Fund, 1978, © Copyright Munch Museum/Munch Ellingsen Group/ARS, NY 2009.

Edvard Munch, The Lonely One, 1896, colored aquatint and drypoint on zinc plate in light blue, yellow, orange brown, and brown on cream laid paper, Collection of Catherine Woodard and Nelson Blitz Jr., © Copyright Munch Museum/Munch Ellingsen Group/ARS, NY 2009.

 

National Gallery
4th and Constitution Avenue NW
East Building
202-737-4215
Washington
Edvard Munch: Master Prints
July 31-October 31, 2010

Haunting images of love, attraction, alienation, death, and other universal human experiences in the work of Norwegian artist Edvard Munch (1863-1944) will be presented in a fascinating exhibition of nearly 60 of his most important prints.

On view at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, Edvard Munch: Master Prints examines the artist’s stylistic approach to each of these themes, a process that involved transforming ideas into an evocative motif and exploring that image through numerous variations over a lifetime.

Such variations are evident in several of print series shown here, selected not only from the Gallery’s own holdings but also from two exceptional private collections: the Epstein Family Collection and the Collection of Catherine Woodard and Nelson Blitz Jr.

The Gallery has presented five exhibitions on Munch: Woodcuts, Lithographs, and Etchings by Paul Gauguin and Edvard Munch (1947); Prints by Edvard Munch from the Rosenwald Collection (1972); The Sick Girl by Edvard Munch• (1975); Edvard Munch: Symbols and Images (1979); and Edvard Munch: Master Prints from the Epstein Family Collection (1990).

"We are pleased to display exceedingly rare works by Munch, including stunning prints from the Epstein and Blitz Collections. We offer our profound thanks to the lenders who have made this exhibition possible," said Earl A. Powell III, director, National Gallery of Art. "The series brought together for this unique occasion will engage visitors as they experience Munch’s fascinating engagement with printmaking."

Organized in five sections, the exhibition features side-by-side comparisons of related prints, revealing how Munch changed a particular image over time, in terms of color, line, texture, and pictorial detail.

His persistent experimentation and virtuosic handling of woodcut, lithography, and intaglio enabled him to vary not only the form but the meaning of individual impressions. Such alterations, which could be both subtle and radical, are also seen in his paintings and drawings.

Building on new research, Master Prints is the first exhibition that considers the exact dating of different impressions of Munch’s fundamental images. A woodblock from 1898, for instance, might have been printed 1898 and again in 1907, 1915, and 1925, each time with some variation.

The exhibition and catalogue will clarify how Munch’s artistic ideas evolved through multiple versions of a subject and how the artist reinterpreted powerful memories through new ideas and experiences.

The first section of the exhibition presents various impressions of The Kiss — first as an etching and later as a woodcut. This is a prime example of the development of an image over time, through a succession of new starts using different printmaking matrices (a "matrix" is an object such as an etching plate or a woodblock on which a design has been created and which is then impressed on a piece of paper to make a print).

The second section reveals a more radical reassembling of images, with Munch simplifying and abstracting compositional devices and adding color for dramatic effect.

Scenes of starkly frontal figures in landscape settings, their eyes wide in fear or anxiety, progress from the only known impression of the lithograph Evening on Karl Johan Street (c. 1895) to the famous existential image of The Scream. Munch developed that image compositionally and stylistically into the two-color lithograph Anxiety, which he then reprised in a single woodblock hand inked to print a two-color version.

The third section considers examples of Munch making a print from a matrix but developing the image further after printing

Conceptually and practically, the simplest way Munch accomplished this is exemplified by two different versions of Ashes, where he took an impression of the two black-and-white lithographs and enhanced each with hand coloring.

The fourth section describes six examples in which Munch refined a scene or a theme, beginning with a single matrix and then altering that image through a variety of means, some quite bold and some less obvious: he redrew the original matrix, combined matrices, printed them in different sequences and colors, masked part of the matrix, changed the paper support, hand colored the impression.

As a sophisticated printmaker, Munch creatively adapted or invented graphic techniques to produce some of his most complicated prints, including Vampire, Madonna, The Sick Child, Sin, Moonlight, and Girls on the Jetty.

The fifth and final section pulls together all of the artistic approaches seen earlier, with Munch varying his initial images over many decades through his masterful manipulation of printmaking media. In his color aquatint The Lonely One and color woodcuts The Lonely Ones, Toward the Forest, and Two Women on the Shore, Munch’s creative alterations of the basic scenes have a purely experimental character, exploring what could be drawn out of the image through continual variation.

Edvard Munch was the most powerful and influential of the modern Norwegian artists. He produced more than 700 woodcuts, lithographs, and intaglio prints, constituting one of the major accomplishments in the graphic arts of the past century.

Personal events such as the deaths of his mother and sister, which occurred when he was a child, his own close brush with death at age 13, and his intense love affairs had a profound effect on his work.

Munch translated many of his psychological experiences into visually condensed but potent and popular images, such as the delicate head of his sister seen in profile against the pillow of her deathbed in The Sick Child.

After studying in Oslo, Munch received an art scholarship that enabled him to visit Paris in 1885. During the next two decades he traveled throughout Europe, producing paintings that were heavily influenced by impressionism and symbolism but later developed an intensity that anticipated the later expressionist movement. By the 1890s Munch’s paintings were being widely exhibited.

Dire poverty in 1894 may have contributed to Munch’s decision to take up printmaking for the first time. In 1895 his friend Julius Meier-Graefe produced Munch’s first portfolio of eight etchings and drypoints, which revealed his immediate grasp of the medium. His distinctive working method lent itself naturally to printmaking, which accommodated both his personal psychological needs and his commercial interests.

In 1908 Munch settled in the town of Kragerø, Norway. Proceeds from the more extensive sale of his work enabled him to live comfortably beginning in 1909. Although he traveled occasionally, he spent his later years living a solitary existence on an estate in Ekely, outside Oslo. He continued to create works of art until the time of his death from pneumonia in 1944.

Edvard Munch, The Kiss, 1895, etching, open bite, drypoint and aquatint in greenish gray on cream card, The Epstein Family Collection, © Copyright Munch Museum/Munch Ellingsen Group/ARS, NY 2009.

Edvard Munch, Madonna, 1895/1896, lithograph in black with hand coloring on green card, The Epstein Family Collection, © Copyright Munch Museum/Munch Ellingsen Group/ARS, NY 2009.

Edvard Munch, Death and the Maiden, 1894/1902 or later, drypoint in brown on thick Japan paper with plate tone, The Epstein Family Collection, © Copyright Munch Museum/Munch Ellingsen Group/ARS, NY 2009.

Edvard Munch, Self-Portrait with Skeleton Arm, 1895, lithograph in black on grayish white China paper, National Gallery of Art, Washington, Rosenwald Collection, 1944, © Copyright Munch Museum/Munch Ellingsen Group/ARS, NY 2009.

Edvard Munch, Sin, 1902, lithograph in black on heavy polished white wove paper, The Epstein Family Collection, © Copyright Munch Museum/Munch Ellingsen Group/ARS, NY 2009.

Edvard Munch, Ashes I, 1896, pen lithograph in black with hand coloring on buff paper mounted on card, Collection of Catherine Woodard and Nelson Blitz Jr., © Copyright Munch Museum/Munch Ellingsen Group/ARS, NY 2009.

 

Edvard Munch, The Kiss IV, 1902, color woodcut, from two blocks, in black and gray on tan card, National Gallery of Art, Washington, The Epstein Family Collection, 1990, © Copyright Munch Museum/Munch Ellingsen Group/ARS, NY 2009.

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944). Moonlight, 1895, Oil on canvas, 93 x 110 cm, The National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design, Oslo, NG.M.02815, © 2008 The Munch Museum / The Munch-Ellingsen Group / Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY.

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944), Summer Night’s Dream: The Voice, 1893, Oil on canvas, 87.9 x 108 cm, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Ernest Wadsworth Longfellow Fund, 59.301, © 2008 The Munch Museum / The Munch-Ellingsen Group / Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY.

The Erroneous Myths around the Career and Sanity of Edvard Munch

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944), Melancholy, 1894/96, Oil on canvas, 81 x 100.5 cm, Rasmus Meyer Collection, The Bergen Art Museum, RMS.M.249, © 2008 The Munch Museum / The Munch-Ellingsen Group / Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY.

Harriet Backer (Norwegian, 1845-1932), By Lamplight, 1890, Oil on canvas, 64.7 x 66.5 cm, The Rasmus Meyer Collection, The Bergen Art Museum, RMS.M.20.

Anna Ancher (Danish, 1859-1935), A Funeral, 1891, Oil on canvas, 103.5 x 124.5 cm, Statens Museum for Kunst, Copenhagen, KMS 1433.

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944), Death in the Sickroom, 1893, Oil on canvas, 134.5 x 160 cm, Munch Museum, Oslo, MMM 418, © 2008 The Munch Museum / The Munch-Ellingsen Group / Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY.

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944), Starry Night, 1893, Oil on canvas, 108.5 x 120.5 cm, Von der Heydt Museum, Wuppertal, G 1179, © 2008 The Munch Museum / The Munch-Ellingsen Group / Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY.

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944), The Sick Child, 1896, Oil on canvas, 121.5 x 118.5 cm, Göteborg Museum of Art, Göteborg, Sweden, GKM 975, © 2008 The Munch Museum / The Munch-Ellingsen Group / Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY.

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944), Rue de Rivoli, 1891, Oil on canvas, 81 x 65.1 cm, Harvard Art Museum, Fogg Art Museum, gift of Rudolf Serkin, © 2008 The Munch Museum / The Munch-Ellingsen Group / Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY.

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944), Anxiety, 1894, Oil on canvas. 94 x 73 cm, Munch Museum, Oslo, MMM 515, © 2008 The Munch Museum / The Munch-Ellingsen Group / Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY.

Franz von Stuck (German, 1863-1928), Sin, c. 1893, Oil on canvas, 88 x 53.3 cm, Gallery Katharina Büttiker, Art Nouveau - Art Deco, Zurich.

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863–1944), Self-Portrait with Cigarette, 1895, Oil on canvas, 110.5 x 85.5 cm, The National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design, Oslo, NG.M.00470, © 2008 The Munch Museum / The Munch-Ellingsen Group / Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY.

Claude Monet (French, 1840-1926), The Boulevard des Capucines, 1873, Oil on canvas. 80.3 x 60.3 cm, Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Missouri, purchase, The Kenneth A. and Helen F. Spencer Foundation Acquisition Fund, F72-35.

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944), Madonna, 1895, Lithograph in black ink with additions in brush and red, green, blue, black, and yellow watercolor on mottled gray-blue wove paper (discolored to gray-green), laid down on heavyweight white wove paper Image: 60.3 x 44 cm, sheet: 60.7 x 44.4 cm, The Art Institute of Chicago, Print and Drawing Department Purchase Fund, © 2008 The Munch Museum / The Munch-Ellingsen Group / Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY.

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944), The Scream, 1895, Lithograph in black ink on cream card. Image: 35.5 x 25.3 cm, sheet: 51 x 38.5 cm, The Art Institute of Chicago, Clarence Buckingham Collection, © 2008 The Munch Museum / The Munch-Ellingsen Group / Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY.

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863–1944), The Girl by the Window, 1893, Oil on canvas, 96.5 x 65.4 cm, The Art Institute of Chicago, Searle Family Trust and Goldabelle McComb Finn endowments; Charles H. and Mary F. S. Worcester Collection, © 2008 The Munch Museum / The Munch-Ellingsen Group / Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY.

 

Art Institute of Chicago
111 South Michigan Avenue
312-443-3600
Chicago
Regenstein Hall
Becoming Edvard Munch:
Influence, Anxiety, and Myth

February 14-April 26, 2009

Two potent myths have traditionally defined our understanding of the artist Edvard Munch: that he was mentally unstable, as his iconic work The Scream might suggest, and that he was influenced by the contemporary art of France and Germany to the exclusion of his native Norway.

Becoming Edvard Munch: Influence, Anxiety, and Myth aims to challenge and overturn these entrenched myths by presenting Munch’s paintings, prints, and drawings in relation to those of his European contemporaries.

Munch’s work has been frequently connected to his emotional pain and instability. However, when his art is considered in light of his personal diaries and letters and the writings of contemporary critics, a very different picture of the artist emerges.

Contrary to the prevailing view, recent scholarship demonstrates that Munch (December 12, 1863-January 23, 1944) was very much in control of his professional career, a savvy businessman keenly aware of how to manipulate the art market and shape popular opinion. Moreover, he built his art on specifically Norwegian pictorial traditions.

This rich exhibition brings together approximately 150 works, including 75 paintings and 75 works on paper by Munch and his peers, many rarely seen in the United States. It is organized around the following themes: the street, loneliness and solitude, love and sexuality, the bather, landscape, and finally, death and dying.

By considering Munch’s work in relation to his peers — including Harriet Backer, James Ensor, Vincent van Gogh, Max Klinger, Christian Krohg, and Claude Monet — surprising connections are revealed.

A 232-page catalogue with 180 color illustrations accompanies the exhibition. A compelling, revisionist take on Munch, the book explores his work and persona in relation to art and criticism of his time.

The exhibition is organized by the Art Institute of Chicago. Curator is Jay A. Clarke, Associate Curator of Prints and Drawings, Art Institute of Chicago.

Edvard Munch's perhaps best-known composition, The Scream is one of the pieces in a series titled The Frieze of Life, in which Munch explored the themes of life, love, fear, death, and melancholy.

Edvard Munch was born in a rustic farmhouse in the village of Ådalsbruk in Løten, Norway to Christian Munch, the son of a prominent priest. Christian was a doctor and medical officer, who married Laura Cathrine Bjølstad, a woman half his age, in 1861. Edvard had an older sister, Johanne Sophie (born 1862), and three younger siblings: Peter Andreas (born 1865), Laura Cathrine (born 1867), and Inger Marie (born 1868). Both Sophie and Edvard appear to have inherited their art talent from their mother. Edvard Munch was related to painter Jacob Munch (1776-1839) and historian Peter Andreas Munch (1810-1863).

The family moved to Kristiania (now Oslo) in 1864 when Christian Munch was appointed medical officer at Akershus Fortress. Edvard’s mother died of tuberculosis in 1868, as did Munch's favorite sister Johanne Sophie in 1877. After their mother's death, the Munch siblings were raised by their father and by their aunt Karen. Often ill for much of the winters and kept out of school, Edvard would draw to keep himself occupied. He also received tutoring from his school mates and his aunt. Christian Munch also instructed his son in history and literature, and entertained the children with vivid ghost stories and tales of Edgar Allan Poe.

Christian’s positive behavior toward his children, however, was overshadowed by his morbid pietism. Munch wrote, “My father was temperamentally nervous and obsessively religious — to the point of psychoneurosis. From him I inherited the seeds of madness. The angles of fear, sorrow, and death stood by my side since the day I was born." Christian reprimanded his children by telling them that their mother was looking down from heaven and grieving over their misbehavior. The oppressive religious milieu, plus Edvard’s poor health and the vivid ghost stories, helped inspire macabre visions and nightmares in Edvard, who felt death constantly advancing on him. One of Munch's younger sisters was diagnosed with mental illness at an early age. Of the five siblings only Andreas married, but he died a few months after the wedding. Munch would later write, "I inherited two of mankind's most frightful enemies — the heritage of consumption and insanity."

Christian Munch’s military pay was very low, and his attempts at developing a private side practice failed, keeping his family in perrenial poverty, They moved frequently from one sordid flat to another. Munch’s early drawings and watercolors depicted these interiors, and the individual objects such as medicine bottles and drawing implements, plus some landscapes. By his teens, art dominated Munch’s interests. At 13, Munch has his first exposure to other artists at the newly formed Art Association, where he admired work of the Norwegian landscape school, and where he returned to copy the paintings, and soon began to paint in oils.

In 1879 Munch enrolled in a technical college to study engineering, where he excelled in physics, chemistry, and math. He learned scaled and perspective drawing, but frequent illnesses interrupted his studies. The following year, much to his father’s disappointment, Munch left the college determined to become a painter. His father viewed art as an “unholy trade”, and his neighbors reacted bitterly and sent him anonymous letters. In contrast to his father’s rabid pietism, Munch adopted an undogmatic stance toward art, writing in his diary his simple goal: “in my art I attempt to explain life and its meaning to myself.”

In 1881, Munch enrolled at the Royal School of Art and Design of Kristiania, founded by his forefather Jacob Munch. His teachers were sculptor Julius Middelthun and naturalistic painter Christian Krohg. That year Munch demonstrated his quick absorption of his figure training at the Academy in his first portraits, including one of his father and his first self-portrait. In 1883, Munch took part in his first public exhibition and shared a studio with other students. His full-length portrait of Karl Jensen-Hjell, a notorious bohemian-about-town, earned a critic’s dismissive response: “It is impressionism carried to the extreme. It is a travesty of art.” Munch’s nude paintings from this period survive only in sketches, except for Standing Nude (1887), perhaps confiscated by his father.

During these early years in his career, Munch experimented with many styles, including Naturalism and Impressionism. Some early works are reminiscent of Manet. Many of these attempts brought him unfavorable criticism from the press and garnered him constant rebukes by his father, who nonetheless provided him with small sums for living expenses. At one point, however, Munch’s father, perhaps swayed by the negative opinion of Munch’s cousin Edvard Diriks (an established, traditional painter), destroyed at least one painting (likely a nude) and refused to advance any more money for art supplies.

Munch also received his father’s ire for his relationship with Hans Jaeger, the local nihilist who lived by the code “a passion to destroy is also a creative passion” and who advocated suicide as the ultimate way to freedom. Munch came under his malevolent, anti-establishment spell. “My ideas developed under the influence of the bohemians or rather under Hans Jaeger. Many people have mistakenly claimed that my ideas were formed under the influence of Strindberg and the Germans … but that is wrong. They had already been formed by then.” At that time, contrary to many of the other bohemians, Munch was still respectful of women, as well as reserved and well-mannered, but he began to give in to the binge drinking and brawling of his circle. He was unsettled by the sexual revolution going on at the time and by the independent women around him. He later turned cynical concerning sexual matters, expressed not only in his behavior and his art, but in his writings as well, an example being a long poem called The City of Free Love. Still dependent on his family for many of his meals, Munch’s relationship with his father remained tense over concerns about his bohemian life.

After numerous experiments, Munch concluded that the Impressionist idiom did not allow sufficient expression. He found it superficial and too akin to scientific experimentation. He felt a need to go deeper and explore situations brimming with emotional content and expressive energy. Under Jaeger’s commandment that Munch should “write his life”, meaning that Munch should explore his own emotional and psychological state, Munch began a period of reflection and self-examination, recording his thoughts in his “soul’s diary” This deeper perspective helped move him to a new view of his art. He wrote that his painting the Sick Child (1886), based on his sister’s death, was his first “soul painting”, his first break from Impressionism. The painting received a negative response from critics and from his family, and caused another “violent outburst of moral indignation” from the community. Only his friend Christian Krohg defended him:

“He paints, or rather regards, things in a way that is different from that of other artists. He sees only the essential, and that, naturally, is all he paints. For this reason Munch’s pictures are as a rule ‘not complete’, as people are so delighted to discover for themselves. Oh, yes, they are complete. His complete handiwork. Art is complete once the artist has really said everything that was on his mind, and this is precisely the advantage Munch has over painters of the other generation, that he really knows how to show us what he has felt, and what has gripped him, and to this he subordinates everything else.”

Munch continued to employ a variety of brushstroke technique and color palettes throughout the 1880s and early 1890s as he struggled to define his style. His idiom continued to veer between naturalistic, as seen in Portrait of Hans Jæger, and impressionistic, as in Rue Lafayette. His Inger On the Beach (1889), which caused another storm of confusion and controversy, hints at the simplified forms, heavy outlines, sharp contrasts, and emotional content of his mature style to come. He began to carefully calculate his compositions to create tension and emotion. While stylistically influenced by the Post-Impressionsits, what evolved was a subject matter which was symbolist in content, depicting a state of mind rather than an external reality. In 1889, Munch presented his first one-man show of nearly all his works to date. The recognition it received led to a two-year state scholarship to study in Paris under French painter Léon Bonnat.

Munch arrived in Paris during the festivities of the Exposition Universelle and roomed with two fellow Norwegian artists. His picture Morning (1884) was displayed at the Norwegian pavilion. He spent his mornings at Bonnat’s busy studio (which included live female models) and afternoons at the exhibition, galleries, and museums (where students were to make copies). Munch recorded little enthusiasm for Bonnat’s drawing lessons “It tires and bores me — it’s numbing’’ but enjoyed the master’s commentary during museum trips.

Munch was enthralled by the vast display of modern European art, including the works of three artists who would prove influential: Paul Gauguin, Vincent van Gogh, and Henri Toulouse-Lautrec — all notable for how they used color to convey emotion. Munch was particularly inspired by Gauguin’s “reaction against realism” and his credo that “art was human work and not an imitation of Nature”, a belief earlier stated by Whistler. As one of his Berlin friends stated later about Munch, “he need not make his way to Tahiti to see and experience the primitive in human nature. He carries his own Tahiti within him.”

That December, his father died, leaving Munch’s family destitute. He returned home and arranged a large loan from a wealthy Norwegian collector when wealthy relatives failed to help, and assumed financial responsibility for his family from then on. Christian’s death depressed him and he was plagued by suicidal thoughts, “I live with the dead — my mother, my sister, my grandfather, my father … Kill yourself and then it’s over. Why live?” During the following year, Munch’s paintings focused on sketchy taverns scenes and bright cityscapes (in the pointillist style of Georges Seurat).

By 1892, Munch formulated his characteristic, and original, Synthetist aesthetic, as seen in Melancholy, in which color is the symbol-laden element. In 1892, the Union of Berlin Artists invited Munch to exhibit at its November exhibition, the society’s first one-man exhibition. However, his paintings evoked bitter controversy, dubbed “The Munch Affair”, and after one week the exhibition closed. Munch was pleased with the “great commotion”, “Never have I had such an amusing time — it’s incredible that something as innocent as painting should have created such a stir.”
In Berlin, Munch involved himself in an international circle of writers, artists and critics, including the Swedish dramatist and leading intellectual August Stringberg, whom he painted in 1892. During his four years in Berlin, Munch sketched out most of the ideas that would comprise his major work, The Frieze of Life, first designed for book illustration but later expressed in paintings. He sold little, but made some income from charging entrance fees to view his controversial paintings. Already, Munch was showing a reluctance to part with his paintings, which he termed his “children”.

His other paintings, including casino scenes, show a simplification of form and detail which marked his early mature style. Munch also began to favor a shallow pictorial space and a minimal backdrop for his frontal figures. Since poses were chosen to produce the most convincing images of states of mind and psychological conditions, such as in Ashes, the figures impart a monumental, static quality. Munch's figures appear to play roles on a theatre stage (Death in the Sick-Room), whose pantomime of fixed postures signify various emotions; since each character embodies a single psychological dimension, as in The Scream, Munch's men and women now appear more symbolic than realistic. He wrote, “No longer should interiors be painted, people reading and women knitting: there would be living people, breathing and feeling, suffering and loving.”

Painted in 1893, The Scream is Munch's most famous work and one of the most recognizable paintings in all art. It has been widely interpreted as representing the universal anxiety of modern man. Painted with broad bands of garish color and highly simplified forms, and employing a high viewpoint, the agonized figure is reduced to a garbed skull in the throes of an emotional crisis. With this painting, Munch met his stated goal of “the study of the soul, that is to say the study of my own self”. Munch wrote of how the painting came to be:

”I was walking down the road with two friends when the sun set; suddenly, the sky turned as red as blood. I stopped and leaned against the fence, feeling unspeakably tired. Tongues of fire and blood stretched over the bluish black fjord. My friends went on walking, while I lagged behind, shivering with fear. Then I heard the enormous, infinite scream of nature.”

He later described the personal anguish behind the painting, “for several years I was almost mad…You know my picture, The Scream? I was stretched to the limit — nature was screaming in my blood … After that I gave up hope ever of being able to love again.”

In summing up the painting’s impact author Martha Tedeschi has stated:

“Whistler’s Mother, Wood's American Gothic, Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa and Edvard Munch's The Scream have all achieved something that most paintings — regardless of their art historical importance, beauty, or monetary value — have not: they communicate a specific meaning almost immediately to almost every viewer. These few works have successfully made the transition from the elite realm of the museum visitor to the enormous venue of popular culture.”

In December 1893, Unter den Linden in Berlin held an exhibition of Munch's work, showing, among other pieces, six paintings entitled Study for a Series: Love. This began a cycle he later called the Frieze of Life — A Poem about Life, Love and Death. "Frieze of Life" motifs such as The Storm and Moonlight are steeped in atmosphere. Other motifs illuminate the nocturnal side of love, such as Rose and Amelie and Vampire. In Death in the Sickroom, the subject is the death of his sister Sophie, which he re-did in many future variations. The dramatic focus of the painting, portraying his entire family, is dispersed in a series of separate and disconnected figures of sorrow. In 1894, he enlarged the spectrum of motifs by adding Anxiety, Ashes, Madonna and Women in Three Stages (from innocence to old age).

Around the turn of the century, Munch worked to finish the "Frieze". He painted a number of pictures, several of them in larger format and to some extent featuring the Art Nouveau aesthetics of the time. He made a wooden frame with carved reliefs for the large painting Metabolism (1898), initially called Adam and Eve. This work reveals Munch's preoccupation with the "fall of man" myth and his pessimistic philosophy of love. Motifs such as The Empty Cross and Golgotha (both c. 1900) reflect a metaphysical orientation, and also echo Munch's pietistic upbringing. The entire Frieze showed for the first time at the secessionist exhibition in Berlin in 1902.

The Frieze of Life themes recur throughout Munch's work but find their strongest outpouring in the mid1890’s. In sketches, paintings, pastels and prints, he taps the depths of his feelings to examine his major motifs: the stages of life, the femme fatale, the hopelessness of love, anxiety, infidelity, jealousy, sexual humiliation, and separation in life and death. These themes find expression in paintings such as The Sick Child (1885), Love and Pain (1893-94), Ashes (1894), and The Bridge. The latter shows limp figures with featureless or hidden faces, over which loom the threatening shapes of heavy trees and brooding houses. Munch portrayed women either as frail, innocent sufferers (see Puberty and Love and Pain) or as the cause of great longing, jealousy and despair (see Separation, Jealousy, and Ashes).

Munch often uses shadows and rings of color around his figures to emphasize an aura of fear, menace, anxiety, or sexual intensity. These paintings have been interpreted as reflections of the artist's sexual anxieties, though it could also be argued that they are a better representation of his turbulent relationship with love itself and his general pessimism regarding human existence. Many of these sketches and paintings were done in several versions, such as Madonna, Hands, and Puberty, and also transcribed as wood-block prints and lithographs. Munch hated to part with his paintings because he thought of his work as a single body of expression. So to capitalize on his production and make some income, he turned to graphic arts to reproduce many of his most famous paintings, including those in this series.

Munch admitted to the personal goals of his work but he also offered his art to a wider purpose, “My art is really a voluntary confession and an attempt to explain to myself my relationship with life—it is, therefore, actually a sort of egoism, but I am constantly hoping that through this I can help others achieve clarity.”

Still attracting strongly negative reactions, in the 1890’s Munch did begin to receive some understanding of his artistic goals, as one critic wrote, “With ruthless contempt for form, clarity, elegance, wholeness, and realism, he paints with intuitive strength of talent the most subtle visions of the soul.” One of his great supporters in Berlin was Walter Rathenau, later the German foreign minister, who greatly contributed to his success.

In 1896, Munch moved to Paris, where he focused on graphic representations of his “Frieze of Life” themes. He further developed his woodcut and lithographic technique. Munch’s Self-Portrait With Skeleton Arm (1895) is done with an etching needle-and-ink method also used by Paul Klee. Munch also produced multi-colored versions of The Sick Child which sold well, as well as several nudes and multiple versions of Kiss (1892) Many of the Parisian critics still considered Munch’s work “violent and brutal” but his exhibitions received serious attention and good attendance. His financial situation improved considerably and in1897, Munch bought himself a summer house, a small fisherman’s cabin built in the late 1700s, in the small town of Åsgårdstrand in Norway. He dubbed this home the "Happy House" and returned here almost every summer for the next 20 years.

Munch returned to Christiana in 1897 where he also received grudging acceptance, where one critic wrote, “A fair number of these pictures have been exhibited before. In my opinion these improve on acquaintance.” In 1899, at the age of thirty-four, Munch began an intimate relationship with Tulla Larsen, a “liberated” upper-class woman. They traveled to Italy together and upon returning. Munch began another fertile period in his art, which included landscapes and his final painting in the “The Frieze of Life” series, The Dance of Life (1899). She was eager for marriage, and Munch begged off. His drinking and poor health reinforced his fears, as he wrote in the third person, “Ever since he was a child he had hated marriage. His sick and nervous home had given him the feeling that he had no right to get married.” Munch almost gave in to Tulla, but fled from her in 1900, also turning away from her considerable fortune, and moved to Berlin. His Girls on the Jetty, created in eighteen different versions, demonstrated the theme of feminine youth without negative connotations. In 1902, he displayed his works thematically at the hall of the Berlin Succession, producing “a symphonic effect — it made a great stir — a lot of antagonism — and a lot of approval.” The Berlin critics were beginning to appreciate Munch’s work even though the public still found his work alien and strange.

The good press coverage gained Munch the attention of influential patrons Albert Kollman and Max Linde. He described the turn of events in his diary, “After twenty years of struggle and misery forces of good finally come to my aid in Germany — and a bright door opens up for me.” However, despite this positive change, Munch’s self-destructive and erratic behavior involved him first with a violent quarrel with another artist, then with an accidental shooting in the presence of Tulla Larsen, who had returned for a brief reconciliation, which injured two of his fingers. She finally left him and married a younger colleague of Munch. Munch took this as a betrayal, and he dwelled on the humiliation for some time to come, channeling some of the bitterness into new paintings. His paintings Still Life (The Murderess) and The Death of Marat I, done in 1906-7, clearly reference the shooting incident and the emotional after effects.

In 1903-4, Munch exhibited in Paris where the coming Fauvists, for their boldly false colors, likely saw his works and might have found inspiration in them. When the Fauves held their own exhibit in 1906, Munch was invited and displayed his works with theirs. After studying the sculpture of Rodin, Munch may have experimented with plasticine as an aid to design, but he produced little sculpture. During this time, Munch received many commissions for portraits and prints which improved his usually precarious financial condition. After an earlier period of landscapes, in 1907 he turned his attention again to human figures and situations.

However, in the autumn of 1908, Munch's anxiety, compounded by excessive drinking and brawling, had become acute. As he wrote later, “My condition was verging on madness—it was touch and go.” Subject to hallucinations and feelings of persecution, he entered the clinic of Dr. Daniel Jacobson. The therapy Munch received for the next eight months included diet and "electrification" (a treatment then fashionable for nervous conditions, not to be confused with electroconvulsive therapy). Munch's stay in hospital stabilized his personality, and after returning to Norway in 1909, his work became more colorful and less pessimistic. His portrait of Professor Jacobson, done in 1909, is one of Munch’s best. Further brightening his mood, the general public of Christiana finally warmed to his work, and museums began to purchase his paintings. He was made a Knight of the Royal Order of St. Olav “for services in art”. His first American exhibit was in 1912 in New York.

As part of his recovery, Dr. Jacobson advised Munch to only socialize with good friends and avoid public drinking. Munch followed this advice and in the process produced several full-length portraits of high quality of friends and patrons—honest portrayals devoid of flattery. He also created landscapes and scenes of people at work and play, using a new optimistic style—broad, loose brushstrokes of vibrant color with frequent use of white space and rare use of black—with only occasional references back to his morbid themes. With more income, Munch was able to buy several properties giving him new vistas for his art and he was finally able to provide for his family.

The outbreak of World War I, found Munch with divided loyalties, as he stated, “All my friends are German but it is France that I love.” In the 1920’s, his German patrons, many Jewish, lost their fortunes and some their lives during the rise of the Nazi movement. Munch found Norwegian printers to substitute for the Germans who had been printing his graphic work. Given his poor health history, during 1917 Munch felt himself lucky to have survived a bout of the “Spanish” flu, the world-wide pandemic of that year.

Munch spent most of his last two decades in solitude at his nearly self-sufficient estate in Ekely, at Skøyen, Oslo. Many of his late paintings celebrate farm life, including many where he used his work horse “Rousseau” as a model. Without any effort, Munch had a steady stream of female models, some of which he may have had sexual relations with, and who were the subjects of numerous nude paintings. Munch occasionally left his home to paint murals on commission, including those done for the Freia chocolate factory.

To the end of his life, Munch continued to paint unsparing self-portraits, adding to his self-searching cycle of his life and his unflinching series of snapshots of his emotional and physical states. In the 1930s and 1940s, the Nazis labeled Munch's work "degenerate art" (along with Picasso, Paul Klee, Matisse, Gauguin and many other modern artists) and removed his 82 works from German museums. Hitler announced in 1937, “For all we care, those prehistoric Stone Age culture barbarians and art-stutters can return to the caves of their ancestors and there can apply their primitive international scratching.” This deeply hurt Munch, who had come to feel Germany was his second homeland.

In 1940, the Germans invaded Norway and the Nazi party took over the government. Munch was 76 years old. With nearly an entire collection of his art in the second floor of his house, Munch lived in fear of a Nazi confiscation. Seventy-one of the paintings previously taken by the Nazis had found their way back to Norway through purchase by collectors (the other 11 were never recovered), including The Scream and The Sick Child, and they too were hidden from the Nazis.

Munch died at his country home on January 23, 1944, about a month after his 80th birthday. His Nazi orchestrated funeral left the impression with Norwegians that he was a Nazi sympathizer.

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863–1944), Evening on Karl Johan, 1892, Oil on canvas, 84.5 x 121 cm, The Rasmus Meyer Collection, The Bergen Art Museum, RMS.M.245, © 2008 The Munch Museum / The Munch-Ellingsen Group / Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY.

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944), Golgotha, 1900, Oil on canvas, 80 x 120 cm, Munch Museum, Oslo, MMM 36, © 2008 The Munch Museum / The Munch-Ellingsen Group / Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY.

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944), Kiss by the Window, 1892, Oil on canvas, 73 x 92 cm, The National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design, Oslo, NG.M.02812, © 2008 The Munch Museum / The Munch-Ellingsen Group / Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY.

 

Edvard Munch (1863-1944), Die Gasse, 1895, Lithographie mit Kreide und Tusche, Schabeisen, auf kalandriertem Velin Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main, Foto: Peter McClennan, © The Munch Museum / The Munch Ellingsen Group / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2009.

Edvard Munch (1863-1944), Meereslandschaft, 1897, Farbholzschnitt von zwei Stöcken in Schwarz und Blaugrün auf geripptem Japan, 475 x 635 mm, Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main, Foto: Ursula Edelmann, © The Munch Museum / The Munch Ellingsen Group / VG Bild-Kunst 2009.

Edvard Munch (1863-1944), Das kranke Kind I, 1896, Farblithographie von vier Steinen, mit Kreide (Umdruck), Kreide, Tusche, Schabeisen, Sandpapier und Bimsstein, auf geripptem China, Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main, Foto: Peter McClennan, © The Munch Museum / The Munch Ellingsen Group / VG, Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2009.

Exploring the Mind and Psyche in Munch's Printmaking, like His Painting

Edvard Munch (1863-1944), Zwei Menschen. Die Einsamen, 1899, Farbholzschnitt von einem in drei Teile gesägten Druckstock in Schwarz und Blaugrün, auf geripptem Japan, 455 x 590 mm, Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main, Foto: Ursula Edelmann, © The Munch Museum / The Munch Ellingsen Group / VG Bild-Kunst 2009.

Edvard Munch (1863-1944), Loslösung II, 1896, Lithographie mit Kreide (Umdruck), auf China, montiert auf, gräuliche Pappe, 465 x 606 mm, Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main, Foto: Peter McClennan, © The Munch Museum / The Munch Ellingsen Group / VG, Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2009.

Edvard Munch (1863-1944), Meer der Liebe, 1896, Lithographie mit Kreide und Tusche, auf geripptem Japan, 450 x 530 mm, Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main, Foto: Peter McClennan, © The Munch Museum / The Munch Ellingsen Group / VG
Bild-Kunst 2009.

Edvard Munch (1863-1944), Zum Walde II, 1915, Farbholzschnitt von zwei Druckstöcken in Blau, Dunkelgrün, Helgrün Orange, Rot und Schwarz, auf Velin, 510 x 646 mm, Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main Foto: Ursula Edelmann, © The Munch Museum / The Munch Ellingsen Group / VG Bild-Kunst 2009.

Edvard Munch (1863-1944), Sommernacht. Die Stimme, 1894, Aquatinta, Kaltnadel, auf geripptem Bütten, Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main, Foto: Peter McClennan, © The Munch Museum / The Munch Ellingsen Group / VG, Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2009.

Paul Gauguin (1848-1903), Te Atua. Les Dieux / Die Götter, 1899, Holzschnitt, 2. Zustand auf dünnem Japan, montiert über Zustand auf Japan, 227 x 200 mm, Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main, Foto: U. Edelmann – Städel Museum – ARTOTHEK
© Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main.

Edvard Munch (1863-1944), Gebet des alten Mannes, Farbholzschnitt von zwei Druckstocken, auf Velin, 470 x 395 mm, Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main, Foto: Peter McClennan, © The Munch Museum / The Munch Ellingsen Group / VG
Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2009.

 

Städel Museum
Schaumainkai 63
+ 49-69-605098-0
Frankfurt am Main
Graphische Sammlung
Edvard Munch.
Druckgraphik im Städel Museum

July 3-October 18, 2009

Die Graphische Sammlung im Städel Museum verwahrt über 80 Druckgraphiken des Norwegers Edvard Munch (1863-1944), darunter Geschenke des Künstlers und viele Erwerbungen, die bereits zu dessen Lebzeiten erfolgten. Die Ausstellung „Edvard Munch. Druckgraphik im Städel Museum“ präsentiert diesen stattlichen Bestand. Sie würdigt die herausragende Aussagekraft der Druckgraphik Edvard Munchs und veranschaulicht deren wegweisende Bedeutung für die Kunst des 20. Jahrhunderts. Wie in seiner Malerei brachte Munch ab 1894 auch in der Druckgraphik vor allem psychische Zustände und innere Vorgänge zum Ausdruck. Mit szenischen Schilderungen ebenso wie mit symbolischen Seelenlandschaften schuf er Blätter, die Stimmungen und Lebenserfahrungen wie Liebe, Eifersucht, Angst, Krankheit, Einsamkeit oder Trauer thematisieren. Aber auch das Bildnis nimmt in der Druckgraphik Munchs einen hohen Stellenwert ein. So hielt Munch Freunde aus der Boheme wie Henrik Ibsen, Stéphane Mallarmé oder August Strindberg in psychologisch tiefgründigen Porträts fest. Kontextualisiert wird Munchs Werk in der Ausstellung am Beispiel ausgewählter Positionen von Künstlern wie Beckmann, Gauguin, Heckel, Klinger, Redon oder Toulouse-Lautrec aus der Sammlung des Städel. Die Ausstellung ist vom 3. Juli bis 18. Oktober 2009 in der Graphischen Sammlung zu sehen.

Edvard Munch beginnt 1894, als er in Berlin lebt, im Alter von 31 Jahren druckgraphisch zu arbeiten. Das in den folgenden Jahrzehnten bis ins hohe Alter in Deutschland, Paris und Norwegen geschaffene umfangreiche druckgraphische Werk spiegelt sowohl sein Leben als auch seine Faszination für die besonderen Qualitäten der gewählten Ausdrucksmittel wider. Experimentierfreudig versteht er es, die spezifischen Eigenschaften der druckgraphischen Techniken, der Radierung, der Lithographie und des Holzschnitts, meisterhaft und innovativ mit komplexen Inhalten zu verbinden.

Die gewählten Motive gleichen weitgehend jenen seiner zuvor entstandenen Gemälde. Als Maler ist Munch 1894 bereits ebenso bekannt wie umstritten. Vor allem der Skandal um die 1892 aufgrund der Empörung von Publikum und Kritikern geschlossene Ausstellung seiner Gemälde im Verein Berliner Künstler entfachte die Diskussion um seinen freien Umgang mit Farben und Formen seiner Bildgegen-stände. Die heftige Ablehnung durch die konservativen Stimmen im Berlin jener Jahre schlägt dem Skandinavier ebenso entgegen wie dem französischen Impressionismus.

Jenseits der Farbe beginnt Munch in Berlin prägende Motive seiner Gemälde wie „Das Mädchen am Fenster“, „Der Tag danach“ oder „Das kranke Kind“ zunächst in Radierungen zu übertragen. Diese in Kenntnis zeitgenössischer Meisterwerke wie der Radierungen Max Klingers (1857-1920), aber offenbar ohne langwierige Anleitung geschaffenen frühen Kaltnadelarbeiten sind von erstaunlicher Qualität und zeugen von einer vielversprechenden Begabung. Gemeinsam mit fünf weiteren Tiefdrucken sind sie in einer 1895 von Julius Meier-Graefe in Berlin verlegten Mappe mit Radierungen Edvard Munchs enthalten. Von dieser seinerzeit erfolglos angebotenen Edition besitzt das Städel seit 1912 eine vollständige Mappe der in nur zehn Exemplaren auf Japanpapier gedruckten Vorzugsausgabe.

Bereits 1894, als Munch zu radieren beginnt, entstehen auch seine ersten Lithographien. Unter den über 30 ausgestellten Beispielen in dieser Technik finden sich eindrückliche Bilder, die differierende Stimmungen der Liebe thematisieren („Meer der Liebe“, „Loslösung II“, „Vampyr II“). Zwei lithographierte Fassungen zur „Eifersucht“ (1896) legen einen Vergleich mit dem späteren Gemälde gleichen Titels in der Galerie des Städel nahe. Munchs „Gasse“ bietet einen visionären Kommentar zur „Frau als Objekt der Begierde“, der im lithographischen Werk von Henri Toulouse-Lautrec einen Ahnen hat. Einzigartig gelingt es Munch, schwer fassbare psychische Zustände und Empfindungen zwischen den Geschlechtern ins Bild zu setzen. Kaum spürbar verlassen seine Motive die alltägliche Welt und finden ihre Entsprechung zum modernen Seelenleben. Seine symbolisch verdichteten Gefühle muten einfach an und sind von tiefem Sinn erfüllt.

Zu den grundlegenden Lebenserfahrungen, die den Künstler Munch sein Leben lang beschäftigen, zählt Eros ebenso wie Thanatos. Die eindringlichsten Zeugnisse zum Thema Tod sind seine in Malerei wie Druckgraphik stets aufs Neue variierten Bilder zum miterlebten Sterben seiner 15-jährigen Schwester Sophie im Jahre 1877. In Paris, wo Munch 1896/97 lebt, lässt er das „Sterbezimmer“ in Schwarz auf blaugrauem Bütten und „Das kranke Kind“, eine Inkunabel der Farblithographie, ausführen. Unter der Hand des Druckers Auguste Clot, der zur gleichen Zeit im Auftrag von Ambroise Vollard mit der Arbeit an den druckgraphischen Folgen der Nabis — Pierre Bonnard, Édouard Vuillard und Maurice Denis — beginnt, kommt die Farblithographie als neue drucktechnische Errungenschaft des ausgehenden 19. Jahr-hunderts zur Entfaltung.

Zahlreich unter den Lithographien Munchs sind einfühlsame Bildnisse seiner Zeitgenossen. Als feinsinnigen Ästheten schildert Munch 1895 seinen Förderer und Freund „Harry Graf Kessler“. Er zeichnete ihn nach dem Leben, unmittelbar vor dem Modell auf den Stein. Das Mappenwerk „Aus dem Hause Linde“, eine besondere Art von Familienbildnis, führte Edvard Munch 1902 im Auftrag des Lübecker Augenarztes und wichtigen Förderers seiner Kunst Max Linde aus. Ausschließlich für den privaten Gebrauch der Familie bestimmt, wurden nur wenige Exemplare gedruckt, die entsprechend in öffentlichen Sammlungen selten zu finden sind. Unter den porträtierten Gefährten aus Bohemekreisen sind in der Ausstellung unter anderen der polnische Dichter Stanis?aw Przybyszewski, aber auch der Schriftsteller Henrik Ibsen oder der schwedische Dramatiker August Strindberg vertreten — Letzterer ein, so Meier-Graefe 1915, Partner Munchs „im Verhältnis zum Femininum, beim Glase und in der Neuros“.

Nach Radierung und Lithographie beginnt Munch Ende 1896 auch im Holzschnitt zu arbeiten. Nachbarschaften wie jene der 1894 in Kaltnadel ausgeführten „Zwei Menschen“ und einem Farbholzschnitt gleichen Themas aus dem Jahr 1899 machen die technisch bedingten Unterschiede anschaulich. Sie zeigen aber auch, wie die von Stille und Einsamkeit getragene Stimmung jeweils in die charakteristische Sprache des druckgraphischen Mediums übersetzt wird — ein gestalterischer Prozess, mit dem stets eine Verdichtung und Konkretisierung des Bildgedankens einhergehen.

Zu den wenigen Künstlern, die vor dem Hintergrund des in Paris entwickelten Interesses für den japanischen Holzschnitt in dieser Zeit ebenso wie Munch von der ältesten bekannten Drucktechnik Gebrauch machen, zählen Paul Gauguin und Félix Vallotton. Und so wie Gauguin um die Mitte der 1890er-Jahre beginnt, dem Holzschnitt durch seine experimentelle Auffassung neue Möglichkeiten zu eröffnen, so entwickelt auch Munch innovative Gestaltungsmethoden. Während er seinen Farbholzschnitt „Meereslandschaft“ (1897) in herkömmlicher Weise mit zwei Stöcken druckte, sind „Zwei Menschen (Die Einsamen)“ (1899) und „Zum Walde II“ (1915) das Ergebnis einer in dieser Technik bisher unbekannten Vorgehensweise. Mittels einer Laubsäge zerlegt er den Druckstock in Teile, um diese unterschiedlich einfärben, und, einem Puzzle gleich zusammengefügt, variantenreich drucken zu können. Zum Einfluss, den Munch auf nachfolgende Künstler ausüben sollte, ist auch dieses Verfahren zu rechnen, das später Ernst Ludwig Kirchner aufgreifen sollte.

Der Bestand der Graphische Sammlung des Städel Museums verzeichnet heute einundachtzig druckgraphische Werke von Edvard Munch. Bereits 1911, zu Lebzeiten des Künstlers, wurden unter der Direktion von Georg Swarzenski die herausragende Farblithographie „Das kranke Mädchen“ und zwei Radierungen für die Städtische Galerie erworben. Weitere Ankäufe erfolgten in den Jahren 1912, 1914, 1916 und 1918. Nachdem der Künstler selbst Anfang der Dreißigerjahre der Sammlung 11 Lithographien und Holzschnitte zum Geschenk machte, war der Bestand auf 40 Werke angewachsen. Während 1937 von drei in den Zwanzigerjahren erworbenen Gemälden Munchs zwei als „entartet“ beschlagnahmt wurden, blieben die druckgraphischen Werke Munchs verschont. Die im Städel zu beklagenden Verluste im Bereich der expressionistischen Graphik wurden nach dem Zweiten Weltkrieg 1948 durch das „Vermächtnis Dr. Carl Hagemann“ großzügig ausgeglichen. Zu den überlassenen Druckgraphiken seiner Sammlung zählten auch Werke von Edvard Munch. Seither wurden auf Auktionen gezielte Erwerbungen getätigt, die den vorhandenen Bestand sinnfällig ergänzen und erweitern.

Edvard Munch (1863-1944), Mädchen auf der Brücke, 1918, Holzschnitt, auf geripptem Bütten, Städel Museum, Graphische Sammlung, Foto: Peter McClennan, © The Munch Museum / The Munch Ellingsen Group / VG
Bild-Kunst 2009.

Odilon Redon (1840-1916), Yeux clos / Geschlossene Augen, 1890, Lithographie mit Kreide, auf aufgewalztem China, 312 x 242, mm, Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main, Foto: U. Edelmann, © Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main.

Edvard Munch (1863-1944), Vampyr II, 1895, Lithographie mit Kreide und Tusche, Schabeisen, auf grauem Karton, Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main, Foto: Peter McClennan, © The Munch Museum / The Munch Ellingsen Group / VG, Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2009.

 

Edvard Munch (1863-1944), August Strindberg, 1896, Lithographie mit Kreide und Tusche, Schabeisen, auf dünnem gelblichem Japan, Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main, Foto: Peter McClennan, © The Munch Museum / The Munch Ellingsen Group / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2009.