“Like Van Gogh the work of the Norwegian artist Edward Munch symbolizes the tortured genius who must pay for his creativity with madness and misery. Of course 21st Century sensibilities now reject this view of creativity-linked-to-suffering, but it endures as a potent symbol in our culture. In 1892, in a Berlin exhibition, Munch’s paintings so shocked the authorities that the show was closed. The artist’s brooding, anguished and powerful work, based on personal grief and obsessions, was instrumental in the development of expressionism, and are now considered a significant force in modern art.”
1863 — Edvard Munch is born 12 December at Loten, Hedmark, Norway. And people starts dying. Mother, sister, father. Life filled with anger, grief and the endless search. He never believed in finding anything through God. He believed in painting. Everything he ever painted was a reflection of his own mind. Even when he did portraits, they came out like stories of what was bugging him.
Some say he seemed humorless … but he was just boddered about some … some small details really; people, women, life … you know.
Having read some books about this man, I get the impression he was rather happy sometimes. Like when he had finished a picture that satisfied him. He didn’t drink though, nor smoke. Not in his last 30 years anyway. Hangin’ out with the bohemian freak show in his youth, it was of course a different story. he was extremely … what to say… forgetful. He forgot stuff, and got easily distracted. He also had a great wit. Hence: A famous Norwegian painter met Munch on the street.
He said to Munch:
– You`re a pig! but you paint good.
– I like you a lot, said Munch, but you paint poorly.
For Munch, the sun was divine. It was the source of life and light. The moon was the child of the earth. And lava; stained earthblood! With the moon came sexual forces and anxiety. Dying was just changing form. People were spiritual waves and material. They could resolve and change form. Everything moved on. When a worm can turn in to a butterfly, why shouldn’t people after death turn into a thing or two? People were just simple earthbugs who loved and suffered. They were only great in their own minds. If one were tired of dancing after the flute of destiny; Stick a gun in your mouth! One of his paintings is called “Towards The Light”. It’s a vertical pile of people struggling madly to get highest. The one on the top holds a coffin towards the sky.
Munch took inspiration from writers such as Ibsen, Dostojevskij, Zola, and Strindberg. Also Schopenhauer, Kierkegaard and Nietzsche.
Some knowledge was limited. Once he asked a friend: Where is the moon?
– There, the friend said, pointing at the halfmoon.
– That is not the moon, laughed Munch, don`t you know its round?
It seems the cold and the darkness was always a part of him. Of course he never cared much for this season, and he often went to Paris possibly round this time. he never cared much for western Norway like almost all the old artists did. Instead he moved next to my town, Moss. Were there are no mountains and no hush winters. Just lowland in the glimmering of the Oslofjord. Come to think of it, Munch was a sick man in many ways. He always seemed to have some kind of an illness. In 1919 he painted “In The Spanish Disease”, a painting of himself, in a rockin`chair with a blanket over him, old and worn out. Mouth open, gasping.
– Is it sickening? he asked our friend.
– What do you mean?
– Can’t you smell it?
– Yes, can’t you see I’m dying?! I`m disintegrating!!
Death and the chills of dead bodies, reminded him to a wild degree of having sex with a woman, so you can see the man had troubles to deal with. Women had the same smell as death. Some flowers had the same effect.
It all sounds awful, I know. Thats why I’m so damn keen on telling you about the nice and kind parts about him. Of how the pictures were his only comfort, how he treated them like his children, and cried when he gave them away,(he often gave them to people he liked, never cared for money at all)however, I will not. Rather I feel like getting in to the absolutely most giving part; the works.
There are three chapters of his art.The first is the years prior to his famous phase. In Berlin during the 1890s he executed a series of pictures called The Frieze of Life, described by himself as ‘a poem of life, love and death’. The Scream from this series – with its strong expression of conflict and tension – has become the very symbol of the alienation of modern man. He then painted like Christian Krogh, nice but harmless. Then he got hung up in French art. Toulouse-Lautrec was obviously some kind of a main man to him.
The second came after he lost a part of his finger (gunshot by women 1902). This was the “man years” when he drank and fucked around a lot. Love and death were essential in the pics. “Puberty” came from this era.
The third chapter was 1909-1944. No longer captured by questions of the soul, sex and death, the colours brighten, the sun gets essential, he is heading towards the light. No more absinthe. He’s a wolf.
Some things to look out for when you enjoy his work:
– It’s said that Munch never drew a straight line. He never drew a pole!
– Notice the roomfeeling in his work.
– He never drew details, like fingers and nails. It would take the attention away from the “wholeness”. Not even detailed faces. you know why. we are all the same crap.
– Almost everything is filled with crippled sexuality. Even landscapes..
– By leaving out details, he drew people on a distance from the picture. Thats where he wanted them. that’s how his work should be seen.
– There is always a dreamy glow over the paintings, like some kinda twilight dimension.
– In some paintings he tends to throw a … thing … in the corner. Like a ball of black . As if he had to have “something” in there. And it looks good too.
Its true, Edvard Munch didn’t get much joy out of life. He didn’t have the ability to be around other people. But he loved life so intensely, that it all ended up with him wanting to BE his pictures. He wanted to live on.
He wanted to die mostly though, but existing through his work.
And so it was Edvard Munch dies after a hush cold at the verge of a war, in Oslo 1944. Leaving this town his ‘Frieze of life’, saying on his death bed: “Bring `em on through generations, let me be among humans after all. Give them some happiness at last”.
Thus, the Munch museum.