Thursday, August 6, 2015

Artist of the Week: Edvard Munch

The Norwegian painter and graphic artist Edvard Munch illustrated man's emotional life in love and death. His art was a major influence of the expressionist movement, where artists sought to give rise to emotional responses. Edvard Munch is best known for his composition, "The Scream", 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.

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.” Edvard Munch 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 1889, Edvard 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. At that time a Post-Impressionist breakthrough was in progress along with different anti-naturalist experiments. This had a liberating effect on Munch. "The camera cannot compete with a brush and canvas," Edvard Munch wrote, "as long as it can't be used in heaven and hell." The first autumn, shortly after Munch arrived in France, he was informed that his father had died.

The loneliness and melancholy in the painting "Night" (1890) are often seen with this in mind. The dark interior with the lonely figure at the window is completely dominated by tones of blue, a painting of nuances which may be reminiscent of James McNeill Whistler's nocturnal color harmonies.

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