Archives for posts with tag: Munch

Always a controversial and problematic discussion, the much debated association between mental illness and creativity continues to engage and to elude definitive conclusions.

I am one of those sceptical of a necessary link between creative genius and mental illness. But am open to being challenged on this.

Check out this video from Aeon that proposes the potential of art as a better tool that science for understanding mental illness. The art in question focuses on the work of Edvard Munch, who I have spoken about here in previous posts.




It feels appropriate to return to Munch as we approach 2013, the 150th anniversary of the artist’s birth.

Munch has dominated the arts world for much of this year, and he has been in the news again this week (

Apparently the artist, despite wide acclaim globally and record numbers this year viewing his iconic work The Scream, is less acclaimed in his native Norway.

Munch bequeathed much of his work to the city of Oslo. There has been a dedicated museum in the city since the 1940s, but one which attracts relatively few visitors, despite housing two versions of The Scream. There have been plans to build a more appropriate setting for the artist’s work, but as yet none of the plans have come to fruition.

The house that Munch bequeathed to the city of Oslo has since been demolished.

Perhaps 2013 will witness a resurgence of interest in the life and works of the artist in his homeland…


I seem to be (willingly) haunted by this iconic and personally deeply symbolic painting.

It has just been announced that the pastel version of Munch’s The Scream, conceived as part of his Frieze of Life series that centred on themes of angst, love and death, is to go on public display at the Museum of Modern Art New York for six months from October 2012. The Scream has never before been shown publicly in the city.

This is the only one of the four versions of the painting that remains in private ownership. A few months ago, this version was sold for a record amount at Sotheby’s New York. Just before it was sold, I was one of the lucky 7,500 or so who viewed the painting in Sotheby’s London.

In the New York auction house, Sotheby clients only were allowed to see it.

Lucky me.

Yet, I am still tempted to make a trip to New York over the coming months. The painting will be on display with many other works by Munch from the museum’s collection. Having seen The Scream in isolation, and the current Munch exhibition at Tate Modern, which did not include any versions of The Scream, I would truly love to see the painting within a wider context of the artist’s life an work.


Three of Warhols prints, inspired by works of Edvard Munch, are coming up for auction at Sotheby’s, at an estimated combined worth of £500,000 to £750,000: The Scream (After Munch), Madonna and Self-Portrait with Skeleton’s Arm (After Munch) and Eva Mudocci (After Munch).

Warhol’s interpretation of the Norwegian artist’s images created works that have become iconic in their own right.

Yet Munch’s original angst, emotional turmoil and despair persevere, despite of, or perhaps emphasised by, Warhol’s distinctive style.


I commenced this blog some months ago with Munch’s The Scream. I now return to Munch, having just seen the current exhibition at Tate Modern.

The exhibition aims to present a fresh perspective on the artist and his work. The accompanying notes highlight the fact that we tend to associate Munch with ‘his images of alienation and sexual torment’, usually in the context of his work from the 1880s and 1890s. The current exhibition focuses on his later work, from the twentieth century, a much more productive period for the artist, and which presents Munch as a more ‘modern artist.’

The exhibition consists of 12 rooms, with themes including Medium as Muse (self-portraits), Reworkings (multiple versions of some images), Autobiography (exploring Munch’s interest in photography), as well as On Stage (paintings from Munch’s collaboration on a production of Ibsen’s Ghosts).

I was particularly intrigued by Munch’s reworkings. Although The Scream does not feature in this exhibition, Munch created at least four versions of the iconic image. So too with The Sick Child  and The Girls on the Bridge, two versions of each of which can be seen currently at Tate Modern. Reworkings were not unusual in Munch’s time. It is tempting, although perhaps fraught, to speculate that the act of repeatedly painting distressing memories, for example the death of Munch’s sister in The Sick Child, may have been therapeutic or cathartic. We will never know. Nonetheless, both versions of The Sick Child presented here capture an almost unbearable and claustrophobic sense of sadness and tragedy.

The spiritual and emotional angst and torment seen in Munch’s earlier images is also visible in this later selection, for example in Red Virginia Creeper, the six paintings that constitute Weeping Woman, as well as Death Room and Jealousy. Munch believed that he ‘came frightened into the world’, and that ‘disease and insanity were the black angels on guard at my cradle’ (Sue Prideaux. Edvard Munch: Behind The Scream. New Haven & London: Yale University Press 2005). His work, through gesture and silent lines, reflects this, a life overshadowed by mental anguish and suffering.

The smudged faces in The Murdress, The Artist and His Model, Man and Woman are as haunting as the penetrating eyes in Red Virginia Creeper, Thorval Lochen and Workers on Their Way Home.

The vibrancy of the colours in much of Munch’s work – for example, New Snow in the Avenue and The Yellow Log (David Hockney comes to mind) – does not undermine the gravity of the content.

Munch had a breakdown in 1908, and the exhibition notes suggest that he then entered a more settled phase. I am not so sure. He once wrote:

‘When misfortune occurs some people hoist all the sails. They can be called those with an heroic nature. Others yield to experience and are marked to it. They can, roughly speaking, be called the walking wounded.’ (Sue Prideaux. Edvard Munch: Behind The Scream. New Haven & London: Yale University Press 2005)

The exhibition does present a fresh perspective of Munch, particularly in terms of the artist as photographer and film maker.

However, much of the emotional content and impact of his earlier paintings continue in this later selection. The ‘Unflinching Gaze’ of Munch’s self-portraits, most notably his final one, Self-Portrait: Between the Clock and the Bed, leave little doubt in this viewer’s mind that the artist continued to expressed himself on canvas as one of the walking wounded….