Friday, January 14, 2011

Edvard Munch, "Munch - Master Prints" at Bergen Art Museum

Edvard Munch, "The Scram", photo from Trykk of foto 3SF.

Edvard Munch made so many versions of "The Scream", from which so many reproductions and so much paraphernalia have been produced, that I find it very hard to look at this work with fresh eyes, - even when I stand face to face with one of the original versions at a museum.

- As I did yesterday, in Bergen Art Museum's exhibition "Munch - Master Prints". Unfortunately, I have not been able to find any downloadable version of that particular work, but you can see a detail of it here.

What struck me when I viewed the image from a distance (it hangs on the end wall in a narrow rectangular room), was that even though it is a lithograph, it resembles a woodcut. The strong vertical and diagonal lines in the bottom half of the picture look like they are carved out of wood, and they form a dramatic contrast to the softly waving horizontal lines in the quiet background landscape.

Seeing a carefully hand colored version of this print was quite refreshing. Just a few blue and orange lines between all the black ones make a great difference. The subtle orange color that Munch added to the sky, gives it a warm evening glow, which is reflected on the contours of the suffering face.

Edvard Munch, "The Sick Child", 1896, lithography. Photo from Listen. (Same image, but not the same print.)

While there was only one version of "The Scream" in the "Munch - Master Prints" exhibition, many of the titles were shown in several versions, for instance "The Sick Child". It was interesting to see prints with different color combinations placed right next to each other. But what I found most enjoyable in all the "Sick Child" prints, was the way their simple composition as well as Munch's rendering of light, made me focus on the girl's face and on the reflection right in front of her face.

Edvard Munch, "The Sick Child", 1885-86. Photo from Nasjonalmuseet.

- Much more than I do when I look at the "Sick Child" painting Munch finished ten years earlier.

"Edvard Munch: Master Prints",  National Gallery of Art, Washington DC, July 31 - Oct 31 2010. Photo from France24.

The prints are hung in series, on dark walls, with scarce lighting, in much the same way as you can see on this photo from a similar exhibition at the US National Gallery of Art. And walking quietly through the darkness where the prints are lit by dim spotlights, you become intimately confronted by eerie and private subject matter.

Five different "Madonna" prints are shown, but I have seen that image so many times already, and this exhibition did not make me discover anything new about it. So instead of posting a "Madonna" here, I will show you a print that I cannot remember having seen before.

Edvard Munch, "Moonlight", woodcut, 1896. Photo from A Polar Bear's Tale.

There are three versions of "Moonlight" in the exhibition, and they are quite different in regard to the rendering of light and the visibility of wood structure. - Quite amazing how Munch has managed to make the woman's face glow with moonlight by carving wood and putting some ink on it, don't you think?

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