The Murderer, 1910
It has not yet been possible to determine the full scope of Edvard Munch's production. This much at least can be said with certainty: his production is enormous in comparison with that of most modern artists. At the time of his death he left no less than 1,008 paintings. To these must be added, besides drawings, watercolors, engravings and sculptures, all the paintings which the artist had given away or sold in the course of the good sixty years he wielded a brush.
A wide selection of Edvard Munch's works would scarcely fail to put his artistic quality into high relief. However, no exhibition can be large enough to throw light on all aspects of his captivating artistic personality. I am thinking now in particular of a certain characteristic feature in Munch, which he displayed already at the beginning of the nineties in the pictures forming the Frieze of Life series. I am thinking of the way in which it became apparently less important for him to produce single masterpieces than to find expression for whole series of ideas in large groups of ideologically connected pictures.
This is significant in more than one way. In the first place it tells us how he began at an early date to preoccupy himself with decorative problems. It was not because he wished to express any new primitivistic artistic feeling. It was because he perceived that he could only keep a large connected series of pictures assembled in one place by giving it the form of decorative wall-painting. He felt that he must be prepared to undertake a commission of this nature if it were offered to him.
An unkind fate prevented Edvard Munch from ever realizing the Frieze of Life in that way. The world had no room for the work in the special form he thought it required. In this respect it may be said that the artist's chief work from his youth was never carried out in full conformity with his real intentions. This is undoubtedly the greatest tragedy which has overtaken Norwegian art, although the individual pictures of the Frieze of Life can now and again be assembled and seen at one exhibition.
Munch did not allow himself to be affected or deterred by this ill fortune. When in 1907 he painted bathing life on the beach at Warnemünde, he still worked in the same way. He used the motif to compose three different pictures in such a way that they form the natural and clear symbol of an imaginative series of ideas. In their representation of unwakened youth, virile strength and elderly meditation, the pictures symbolize the everlasting character of the three ages.
In 1911 Edvard Munch won the competition for the privilege of decorating the new assembly hall of Oslo University, the so-called Aula. Thereby he gained his first and greatest chance of keeping a connected group of pictures united in the form of a large room decoration. Munch knew how to avail himself of this opportunity. He created the chief work of his maturity, and a work which raises the question whether his most beautiful artistic contribution is not found in the sphere of monumental wall decoration. Now that the artist is to be introduced seriously to the Anglo-Saxon public it must be made clear that he is in the same situation as so many great Italian masters of the Renaissance: much that is most excellent and most central in his enormous production can only be seen in the place where it was painted.
Munch, then, did not aim primarily at producing individual works of art, and this is no doubt one of the reasons why his pictures became so numerous that he could not possibly take adequate care of them. They were allowed to lie scattered about him inside and outside the house, in all kinds of weather and at all times of the year. Nevertheless, he would not dispense with them. It seemed as if his pictures served to retain the idea and thread in his thinking, and to remind him what his activity as a painter had taught him.
Munch entertained a constantly increasing reluctance to separate himself from anything he had painted. This had not always been avoidable. Until nearly 1909 he had lived under unusually pressing circumstances. Against his will he had often been forced to sell a picture belonging to one or other of his artistic series of ideas. In such cases he was apt to replace it immediately or later by a replica for his own use. The largest bathing picture from Warnemünde is such a replica.
This makeshift procedure afforded both advantages and disadvantages. It allowed Munch to leave behind an artistic collection which is probably unique in its completeness. This he bequeathed to the city of Oslo unconditionally, and Oslo will, at the earliest opportunity, build a museum for it. On the other hand it meant that a long time might elapse before the artist was able to paint his replicas. It was not possible for Munch to preserve these connected series of pictures in a form which, in both technical and formal respects, is entirely uniform.
No one perceived the drawbacks more clearly than Munch himself. In 1918 he examined his own example of the Frieze of Life. He thought that the work was too good to be forgotten. Nevertheless he compared it to a shipwrecked vessel which had had half its rigging washed overboard because it had not reached harbour in time. This comparison is the more apposite in that Munch's pictures have also suffered from the effects of weather by being allowed to lie about exposed to wind and rain. But an absolute catastrophe it has not been.
It is perhaps in the role of graphic artist that Munch has given fullest expression to his personality. Ever since 1894 he had made it almost a rule to expand his production through the mediums of etching, lithography and woodcut. This was not with a view to acquiring a reputation in a closely related field, but in order to fix his vision and his artistic ideas the more deeply and definitely. Munch's engravings have an independent value equal to anything else he has achieved. In their more than 714 different specimens they form a well-preserved, unbroken testimony of his activity as an artist.
But to return to this feature in Munch, that he did not aim chiefly at producing isolated works of art. It allows us to see an art which regards itself as a means of searching and plumbing the mystery of life and the universe. It is impossible to fail to see what this view of art at a certain period of Munch's life had taught him. The aforementioned bathing pictures from Warnermünde are particularly vivid illustrations. The lesson was not to allow himself to be absorbed by the sorrows and sufferings of the individual person at close quarters, but to observe how the great and lasting powers of Nature controlled life with rhythmic regularity. Munch aimed at freeing himself from an overpowering dread of life, which he had felt so intensely in his youth that it had threatened to crush him completely.
The result was an art which with unchanging intensity proclaims a view of life in constant growth-an art which gives its message as directly through its spirit as through its form. It is an art characterized by a certain visionary and imaginative romanticism. It may be that herein there is something typically Scandinavian which craves expression in the artist. If so, it has not limited Munch's universality. For all civilized adults, irrespective of sex, nationality and race, can read with equal facility the message Edvard Munch has tried to give them in his peculiar and deeply moving works.
Edvard Munch, Impressionism, Edvard Munch Biography, Munch Paintings, Munch Drawings, The Scream, Ash 1894, Bathing Man, Mermaid on the Shore, The Murderer, Separation, The Dance of Life, Madeban Auf Dem Pier, Jealousy, Young Girl on a Jetty, The Girls on the Pier, Four Girls on a Bridge, The Kiss, Girl with Red Hair, Lady From the Sea, Madonna 1895, Portrait of Madame Cézanne, Summer Night at the Beach, Girl on a Bridge, Summer Night at Asgarstrand, Vampire, White and Red, Madonna 1894, Bathing Man, The Sun, Moonlight
More Art Zones
Art Canyon Andy Warhol & Pop Art All About Arts Americana Posters Artmaster Art Prints Canvas Art College Posters
Decorating Styles Destination Athens Modern Art Posters Motivational Art Movie Posters New York New York Sports Posters