Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Edvard Munch: Instagrammer prototype?

On Saturday, @almostsenseless and I trawled down to the Tate Modern for their reassessment of the works of Edvard Munch.

Munch is famous for his painting "The Scream", but possibly less well known is that he would do multiple iterations of the same painting. Nobody can be sure of the motivations, but it does seem likely that it was for financial reasons.

"I liked The Scream, could I have one of them?"

"OK mate, that'll be 50 Kroner to you."

The exhibition was, I think, quite cleverly arranged, alternating between his distinctive and striking paintings and his equally deep interest in the new art of photography.

There are distinct themes to the various groupings, one room contrasts some of his original pictures with newer copies or reworkings; another showed a series of sketches, paintings and even a sculpture of the "Weeping Woman". My appreciation of the "Weeping Woman" was somewhat spoiled by @almostsenseless pointing out that she was weeping because she was standing on scales!

There were some recurring themes to his work, clearly there is pain and anguish and hurt from a red-headed woman (Vampyr and Aske) but also death (some very incongruous dead bodies in some of his work from the pre-WW1 years) and physical violence (a street fight clearly left its mark on him.)

Looking at the paintings, it's quite interesting how long they took to paint, often spanning two years to complete. Initially, we thought that it was because he lost interest in the paintings, but I subsequently began to wonder if it wasn't simply because he was taking a break from creating new art to quickly knock up a copy of something he'd already done.

I have to say that in general, I preferred his older work, which seemed to be much deeper and darker as well as more technically accomplished. I can't really say how much of the change of technique was down to artistic development and experimentation and how much was down to his need to bang out copies.

The most affecting picture of the exhibition for me was the one right next to the exit: "Self Portait between the Clock and the Bed". It shows Munch, still upright and yet somehow forlorn and empty, waiting for the inevitability of his death, somehow an empty husk of a man.

His photos are also interesting - he was clearly enthralled by this new medium and the opportunities it offered for experimentation. And several of his photographic self-portraits are instantly recognisable as the "iPhone held at arm's length" type. Combined with his enthusiasm for special photographic effects, I don't think it's unreasonable to say that Edvard Munch would have been all over Instagram and Photoshop if they'd been around in his day.

All in all, an amazing exhibition that doesn't pull any punches in showing a man who could paint, but wasn't precious about his painting. Well worth a visit!

1 comment:

Wahooart edvard said...

Nature is not only all that is visible to the eye... it also includes the inner pictures of the soul.
Read more at Edvard Munch