Today I took a day off at work just to go and see the Edvard Munch exhibition in Albertina, Vienna (I didn’t want to go over the weekend – too many people).
The exhibition was called Edvard Munch: love, death, loneliness. And no other three words could describe the Norwegian painter’s life better than that.
“Like Leonardo da Vinci studied the inside of the human body and dissected corpses, so I am trying to dissect souls.”
I love his painting for the excess of emotions running through the paper or canvas. He was the master of emotions, even though he didn’t experience many positive ones throughout his life. Like I said in one of my previous posts, the negative, or sad emotions for some reason tend to be the strongest. And this is very true with Munch. He could beautifully play with dark emotions. He often painted or drew several copies of the same motif in different color variations just to play with senses and emotions of the onlooker.
His art revolves around one question: what is life? That’s why he titled his body of work “Frieze of Life”. By the end of the 19. century he started sorting all his to-date works by theme into separate cycles. The Frieze of Life is his own account of life as observed via love, jealousy, sexual desire, depression, anxiety, melancholy, angst…
Edvard Munch led an unhappy, yet rich and thoughtful life. He was melancholy and depressed most of the times but his mind was beautiful. And his life was full of love. It was a destructive and painful love, but that’s how love often is. That’s the kind of love that inspires the most beautiful art.
“My path led along an abyss, some bottomless depth. The angst has been with me for as long as I can remember.”
“I was given a singular role on this earth: a role imposed upon me by a life full of illness, hapless circumstances, and my vocation as an artist. It is a life that does not even know the semblance of happiness, in fact, does not yearn for happiness at all.”
Munch was not only a painter, he was a poet, too. When painting, he used to write down his thoughts. They’re leaving me speechless (and I think they’ll do the same to you).
“Like a star rising from the dark and meeting another star that flashes up for a moment only to disappear again in the dark, so man and woman meet each other. They are gliding along together. They light up in love, a brief flame – and disappear again in different directions. Only few find themselves together in a large blaze in which they can be fully united.”
“He lay down, but could not sleep. Her image – in the bright summer night, with the pale moon above – stood before him. Her eyes in the shadows. And yet – the way she looked at him. Like she was waiting for something. Should he take a chance? Should he kiss her? Wasn’t she expecting it? He had never kissed before.”
“When my eyes look into your big eyes – in the pale moonlight, with delicate hands weaving invisible threads that are tied around my heart. They are guided by my eyes and by your big dark eyes. And around your heart. Your eyes are so big, now they are so close to me. They are like two big dark skies.”
“The ancients were right to compare love to a flame, for like a flame, love only leaves ashes behind.”
“I know the mystic look of the jealous. It is a searching look, full of hatred and full of love.”
“The picture is a warning. It says that love goes hand in hand with death. And yet, it is only a woman kissing a man on the neck.”
“Togetherness has a price: the loss of individuality.”
And there’s a reason why his painting “The scream” became one of the most popular paintings of all time. Even though the three color versions of “The scream” were painted by Munch some years before, the drawing became acknowledged during the interwar period, for which it became a sort of a symbol. The despair and fear coming out of the painting served as a representation of the era.
This is Munch’s note on the Scream:
“I was walking down the road with two friends when the sun set; suddenly the sky turned as red as blood. I stopped and leaned against the fence, feeling unspeakably tired. Tongues of fire and blood stretched over the bluish black fjord. My friends went on walking, while I lagged behind, shivering with fear.”