Edvard Munch: paintings of a life

Edvard Munch, 1863-1944, Norwegian

From an exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY of paintings in the winter of 2017/18.

 

 

The artist’s main themes are the cycle of human life; the mystery of women and the vagaries of love;  chance and suffering.

The artist returns again and again to the events which marked his own life: the death of his mother and sister; the memory of the joy of his first love who rejected him; and of the anguish of a later emotional entanglement with a woman whom he rejected.

And, on the edge of our incomprehension, the unmediated experience of the horror of the workings of the natural world expressed in one instant in one scream one day when he was out walking with friends.

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Influenced in his style first by Impressionism and then German Expressionism, the goal of the artist’s experiments in technique was to the end of expressing emotion as clearly as possible.  

 

 

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Moonlight, 1893, oil on canvas.   Loaned by the Nasjonalsmuseet for Kunst, Oslo

 

 

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Death in the Sick Room, 1893, oil on canvas.  Loaned by the Munch Museum, Oslo.

The artist’s sister, Sophie, at her death hour, in in the wicker chair surrounded by her father and aunt and her sisters, adults in this painting which was completed 16 years after Sophie’s death.  The artist includes himself in this painting.

 

 

 

 

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Night in St. Cloud, 1893, oil on canvas. Private collection.

The museum notes that the artist moved to St. Cloud in 1890.  There he abandoned naturalism for Symbolism which favours emotional reaction over objective observation.

 

 

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The Storm, 1893, oil on canvas.  MOMA, NY

 

 

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Madonna, 1895-97, oil on canvas.  Private collection.

The museum notes that the Madonna is one of the figures in the artist’s depiction of life, love, suffering and death, The Frieze of Life.  The artist’s name for the five Madonnas which he painted was ‘Loving Woman’.

 

 

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The Sick Child, 1896, oil on canvas.  Loaned by the Gotesborg Konstmseum.

The museum notes that the artist looked upon this technique of layering and then scraping away paint as a breakthrough in which he moved away from Impressionism and realism towards pure expression.

 

 

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The Kiss, 1897, oil on canvas.  Loaned by the Munch Museum, Oslo

 

 

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Inheritance, 1897-99, oil on canvas.  Loaned by the Munch Museum, Oslo.

The death of a syphilitic baby.  He and his mother are cast as the Pieta. The artist saw this at a hospital in Paris.

 

 

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Eye in Eye, 1899-1900, oil on canvas.  Loaned by the Munch Museum, Oslo

 

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The Dance of Life, 1899-1900, oil on canvas. 

The painting  is part of a series called The Frieze of Life whose themes are love, anxiety and death.

In his diary, Munch wrote this:  ‘ I am dancing with my true love – a memory of her.  A smiling blond-haired woman enters who wishes to take the flower of love – but it won’t allow itself to be taken.  And on the other side one can see her dressed in black troubled by the couple dancing – rejected as I was rejected from her dance.’

On either side of the dancing couple are the two women involved in this story.  The woman who rejected the artist; and the woman he later rejected.  Both shown lonely and sad.

 

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Red Virginia Creeper, 1898-1900, oil on canvas.  Loaned by the Munch Museum, Oslo

 

 

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Jealousy, c.1907, oil on canvas.  On loan from the Munch Museum.

The museum notes that the man in the foreground is presumed to be the poet Stanislaw Przybyszewski.

 

 

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The Sick Child, 1907, oil on canvas.  Loaned by Tate Modern, London.

The third of six paintings on this theme made between 1825 and 1927.

 

 

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The Death of Marat, 1907, oil on canvas.  Loaned by the Munchen Museum, Oslo.

The museum notes that the artist is representing an incident in which he shot himself in the hand in a tussle with his fiance.  This he represents here by allusion to the painting of the death of Jean Paul Marat in 1797 by Jacques Louis David (1748-1825, French).

The painting technique, long vertical strokes and some horizontal ones, is new for the artist.

 

 

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The Weeping Nude, 1913-14, oil on canvas.  On loan from the Munch Museum, Oslo.

The artist’s model and housekeeper for a period of four years.  In this painting she is 17.

 

 

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Death Struggle, 1915, oil on canvas.  Loaned by the Munch Museum, Oslo

The artist is returning to the death of his sister, Sophie, 40 years  earlier.

 

 

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Model (Annie Fjeldbu)  by the Wicker Chair, 1919-21, oil on canvas.  Loaned by the Munch Museum, Oslo

 

 

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Starry Night, oil on canvas. 1922-24.  On loan from the Munch Museum, Oslo

The museum notes that this is a view from the artist’s house at Ekley, Oslo where he died.

 

 

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Ashes, 1925, oil on canvas. Loaned by the Munch Museum.

The passing away of love, the museum suggests.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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