The new exhibition Edvard Munch: The Modern Eye brings together paintings, prints, sculpture, film and photography spanning the artists entire career. The way in which the artist worked in series, re-working themes and ideas is fascinating. He liked to be surrounded by his works and when a work was sold, he would make another version of the painting to replace it.
I have always admired the atmosphere and melancholy that Munch captures within his work. Throughout his career the growing sense of solitude and isolation increases and this makes this exhibition a moving and powerful experience. It is refreshing to see these expressive and ‘painterly’ paintings full of feeling and emotion. What a contrast to the other offering of soulless commercial dross on show downstairs at the Tate Modern at present.
The exhibition opens with a small selection of the artists self-portraiture. Quite sparsely hung, it shows the artists engagement with a range of diverse media, from woodcut to lithographic prints, oils to film over a 50 year period.
This self-portrait is one of three lithographs that Munch made in Berlin during 1895. I have always found Munch’s prints to be inspirational, in particular the way in which he used drypoint and aquatint together. It was after seeing prints of both Munch and Whistler that I revisited printmaking, and began my own journey into drypoint etching.
It was a small lithograph entitled Puberty that became the inspiration and the starting point for my own painting Fragility. This painting originally intended to be a nude but later changed to a portrait due to a change in circumstance still echoes the pose and vulnerability of the Munch print. Munch worked on his series of paintings ‘Puberty’ during the late 1880’s to mid 1890’s. The sense of isolation and vulnerability in this series of works is profound.
The series of six paintings of Weeping Woman was one of the exhibition highlights for me and demonstrates the artist working through an idea in a series, working and re-working the theme not only in paint but also in lithography, drawing, photography and sculpture.
As the exhibition opened with a selection of self-portraits it closes with a number of unflinching observations of the artist during his final years. My particular favourite is the self-portrait The Night Wanderer in which the artist portrays himself as a gaunt insomniac pacing through a darkened house. These last portraits show the artists preoccupation with his own mortality, a powerful selection of paintings with which to close this impressive exhibition.