“We want more than a mere photograph of nature. We do not want to paint pretty pictures to be hung on drawing-room walls. We want to create, or at least lay the foundations of, an art that gives something to humanity. An art that arrests and engages. An art created of one’s innermost heart.”(E.M.
Edvard Munch, Norway’s most popular artist, was a painter, lithographer, etcher, and wood engraver. He is looked upon as one of the most significant influences on the development of German and Central European expressionism. Munch’s convulsed and tortuous art was formed by the misery and conflicts of his time, and, even more important, by his own unhappy life. Childhood tragedy, intense and dramatic love affairs, alcoholism, and ceaseless traveling are reflected in his works, particularly in paintings like The Sick Child, The Scream, and Vampire. Munch’s pictures show his social awareness and his tendency to express, as in Puberty, many of the basic fears and anxieties of mankind.
Ashses Oil on Canvas 1894
Jealousy, 1895 Oil on canvas
Edvard Munch became a celebrity in Germany overnight when the inclusion of his works caused the closing of the Verein Berliner Künstler exhibition of 1892. His man-destroying Vampire was decidedly “objectionable.” He live and worked in Germany for many years, exerting thereby a tremendous influence on German artist circles.
Now here is some examples of his work in a set called ‘Anxiety’.
Puberty 1894-5 Oil on Canvas
Evening on Karl Johan, 1892 Oil on Canvas
Anxiety, 1894 Oil on canvas
Despair, 1893-4 Oil on canvas
The Scream, 1893 Tempera and pastel on board
The scream is a highly recognisable and relatable piece of art and one of the most iconic images in the world today. Late 19th century painting and has over a 105 versions in different medias but the 1893 painting is the most famous. It was part of six paintings titled the ‘The Frieze of life’ while the other images where based on love and relationships but the scream was the last one depicting Munch’s final view of love.
Interrupting the scream has had many notions and meanings such as is it coming from the figure? What the figure is seeing or its environment? Or even an internal struggle?
The figure is genderless and screaming directly at the viewer and has less human qualities. The mood is emphasised by the twisting lines and bold colours of the landscape. The face of the figure is screaming or appears to be and is holding their head which is negative body language. Also figure is in front of a barrier which has many meanings on its own and how the railing has been painted through the headline of the figure. This would express the mental fragility of the figure and tipping over the age. It is a provocative image to show a great feeling of shock instead of positive mood of impressionist paintings and was an early example of Expressionism.
This is why I felt it was a powerful and important image to include in my research of the themes through the human body and body language with symbolism and deep anxiety.
Munch painted this picture based on an experience he had while on walk in the same place the painting is depicted. That he felt an actual scream ripple throughout nature and that the sky was blood in a sunset. That the whole world was shattering and crying out in anguish and that the figure it-self is not screaming but the landscape is screaming at the figure.
The place the painting was based on was famous for suicides and a friend of Munch killed himself in the woods below the walk way in the piece. A woman asylum was nearby in view and at the time his sister was hospitalized with manic depression and you could hear the woman’s cry’s from the asylum.
He was plagued by depression and mental illness throughout his life due to continuing trauma of losing family to disease or becoming mentally ill. This reflects about the mental and emotional state of the artist and his subject matter. That to be able to portray work on a high emotional and expressional level and to make pieces based on our deepest fears and negative experiences. This is why I felt Munch was a good example of an artist to study and his pieces great to refer back to for this project.