A version of Edvard Munch’s celebrated painting “The Scream’’ will be up for sale at Sotheby’s in New York on May 2nd, the auction house announced on Tuesday morning. Officials there estimate it could bring more than $80 million.
Munch made four versions of the composition, which has become the embodiment of angst and existential dread. Three are in Norwegian museums and this one, pastel on board, from 1895, is the only “Scream” still in private hands. It is being sold by Petter Olsen, a Norwegian businessman and shipping heir whose father, Thomas, was a friend, neighbor and patron of the artist.
“I have lived with this painting my entire life,’’ said Mr. Olsen in a telephone interview, explaining that it had hung in the dining room of his family’s home in Oslo along with other Munch works including a portrait of Mr. Olsen’s mother from 1932. He has decided to sell the prized work because to own one of this value and art historical import is “a huge responsibility,’’ he said. Mr. Olsen is also trying to raise money to build a cultural center at Nedre Ramme, some 25 miles south of Oslo, on the grounds where Munch lived from 1910 until his death in 1944. The center is to include an art gallery, where he intends to show a series of thematic summer exhibitions in collaboration with the Oslo Museum; these shows will include works from his vast collection of paintings by Munch. He also plans to restore Munch’s home and studio, which will also be open to the public.
Besides being one of the most recognizable images in art history, “The Scream’’ is also one of the most often stolen. Versions of it have been taken twice, first in 1994, when two thieves entered the National Gallery of Norway and fled with an 1893 “Scream” (it was recovered unharmed later that year), and then in 2004, when masked gunmen stole the 1910 version as well as Munch’s “Madonna” from the Munch Museum, also in Oslo (both works were recovered two years later).
This version of the painting is different from the others in several ways. It is the most colorful of the four, and the only version whose original frame was hand-painted by the artist with a poem describing a walk at sunset (“I felt a whiff of Melancholy — I stood / Still, deathly tired”) that inspired the painting. It is also the only “Scream” in which one of the two figures in the background turns to look outward onto the cityscape.
“The Scream is unique,’’ Simon Shaw, who heads Sotheby’s Impressionist and modern art department in New York, said in a telephone interview. “Everybody knows it, but paradoxically few people have ever really seen it in person. When you stand in front of the painting it’s really quite scary. It has the power to shock.’’
is well established as the epitome of Munch's work as an artist. The painting, which seethes with movement, appears to be painted with an explosive force and the result is a genuine expression of an agitated mind. It has become recognised as the actual mental image of the existential angst of civilised man. With this motif, Munch departs from the central perspective field on whose stage painting had been played out since the Renaissance. In Philosophie der Kunst, Schopenhauer claimed that the limit of the power of expression of a work of art was its inability to reproduce a scream,'das Geschrei', precisely the title which Munch was to give his motif. He appeared almost to have wished to correct the claim of the philosopher, and his solution of the problem rests on contemporary theories of synaesthesia, where light and colour impulses can produce an impression of sound, and vice versa. A gouache in the Munch Museum, dated 1892, shows Munch experimenting, finding his way towards the final form of the picture. Here, Munch has also written one of his many versions of the lyric prose text associated with the motif:
I was out walking with two friends - the sun began to set - suddenly the sky turned blood red - I paused, feeling exhausted, and leaned on the fence - there was blood and tongues of fire above the blue-black fjord and the city - my friends walked on, and I stood there trembling with anxiety - and I sensed an endless scream passing through nature.
Other artists at the turn of the century such as Félicien Rops, Fernand Khnoppf, Gustave Moreau and James Ensor were also striving towards a personal basis for their art, but none developed such a uniquely 'private' symbolism on the basis of personal traumatic experience. He had the courage to expose his own life situation to view - denuded of any self-pity. In Jungian terms, he crystallises archetypal images and symbols of human existential experience, and he takes this crystallisation farthest in The Scream, where the almost abstract figure in the foreground makes concrete and personifies the existential angst of modern man. This is Expressionism as Munch saw it: an extremely subjective, existential art, retaining something original and primitive, which caused one of his friends in Berlin in the 1890s to write with reference to Gauguin: ' ... he does not need to travel to Tahiti to see and experience the primitive in human nature. He carries his own Tahiti inside himself...'
1880 - when Munch decided to become a painter - saw a marked revolution in the focus of Norwegian art. The Norwegian artists, who had previously been trained abroad, first in Germany and later in France, now returned to Norway and proclaimed Naturalism as the only possible direction for young Norwegian art. This implicity meant saying farewell to the demand for rigid academic training and to the German focus in Norwegian art, and instead a turning to the artistic environment of Paris. Naturalism, with its basis in studying nature, resulted in the conviction that, instead of formal training, it was necessary for young artists to learn from nature by painting directly from it or from a model.
That same year, Emile Zola defined Naturalism as 'a corner of nature seen through a temperament'. Munch's art in the first half of the 1880s can be seen as a radicalisation of this idea, since he emphasises the artist's emotional experience of the motif. With The Sick Child (first version 1886, National Gallery, Oslo), Munch develops the subjective and the existential aspect, in that he primarily wishes to create an expression of the painful feelings associated with his memories of his sister Sophie's illness and death. However, according to Munch himself, the motif also symbolises memories of his dying mother and his own fear of death when ill as a child: '... I am convinced that there is hardIy a painter who drained his subject to the very last bitter drop as I did in The Sick Child. It was not only I myself sitting there - it was all my loved ones.'
Paintings of sickbeds were very common in the naturalistic epoch, but Munch's depiction of a young person's farewell to an un-lived life displays great psychological sensitivity and is so expressive and strikingly innovative that it can hardly be thought to have been created without the artist having formulated the rudiments of an existential expressionistic aesthetic, at least in his own mind.
In The Sick Child, Munch appears to exceed the limits of what could be expressed in a naturalistic language of form. Expressing strong, subjective feelings required another form of expression. According to Munch himself, he repainted the picture 20 times before finally exhibiting it.The painting displays the artist's nervous search with brush and palette. Due to its pronounced unfinished character, he exhibited the painting as Study. Later in life he said that this experiment bore the seeds not only of central works of his own, but also of problems which were to occupy several styles of art in the 20th century. He himself would later term it 'a thoroughly nervous, constructed (cubist) and colourless picture'.
The shocking effect the painting had when Munch exhibited it at the Autumn Exhibition in Kristiania in 1886 is unique in Norwegian art history. A storm of indignation and protest broke out. At the opening people crowded around in front of the painting and laughed, and in the press it was described as 'an abortion' and 'fish stew in lobster sauce'.
A journey to the World's Fair in Antwerp in 1885, followed by a visit to Paris, brought Munch into direct contact with the latest movements in European art. His brush strokes became freer and broader, and he combined Impressionistic and Naturalistic elements in what was, for the time, a daring manner.
In the following years, Munch was constantly the victim of derisive and uncomprehending criticism in the press, although artist colleagues discovered his astonishing ability at an early stage and considered him an exceptional, if somewhat undisciplined, talent.
In April 1889, Munch - then 25 years old - arranged his first one-man show at the Student Association in Kristiania, where he exhibited 63 paintings and a large number of drawings. For a young and controversial artist to exhibit his collected works was something completely unknown, and according to the press, demonstrated a 'high Degree of Boldness and a lack of Self- criticism'. However, Munch's teacher, or more accurately mentor, Christian Krohg, wrote an enthusiastic article which included the statement: 'He paints things, or rather he sees them, differently from other artists. He only sees what is essential and needless to say that is all he paints too... it is precisely that which puts Munch ahead of his generation: he really grasps how to show what he feels, what has him in thrall and he subordinates everything else to that.'
The same year Munch received his first state scholarship, and, with it in his pocket, in the autumn he headed to Paris. It is likely that even before he travelled to Paris Munch had begun an illustrated 'journal', which was probably inspired by the message from Kristiania bohemia on 'writing one's own life'.The central figure of Kristiania bohemia, author and nihilist Hans Jæger, claimed that one had to strive for honesty - ruthless honesty. One was to live truthfully - existentially truthfully. There was a religious aspect to this attitude, where the central inspiration was considered to be the Christian poet and philosopher Søren Kierkegaard. Munch's journal bears the seeds of the idea of a personally focused, autobiographic art, what was later to develop into a number of the main motifs in what is known as his Frieze of Life. The book contains tragic memories from childhood, impressions of bohemian life in Kristiania, and the experience of his first great love, as well as the rudiments of a personal theory of art:
The fact is that at different times you see with different eyes. You see differently in the morning from in the evening. The way in which one sees also depends on one's mood... If, in the morning, you come from a dark bedroom into the living room, then you might see everything in a blue light. Even the deepest shadows have a light atmosphere above them. After a while you get used to the light and the shadows get deeper and you see more sharply. If you are to paint such an atmosphere ... you cannot merely sit and stare at everything and paint it 'as accurately as you see it'. You must paint it as it appeared when the motif seized you.
At the same time as Munch left for Paris, he exhibited at the Autumn Exhibition the painting Summer Night, later called Inger on the Shore (1898, Rasmus Meyer´s Collections, Bergen) - once more, a painting which was so different and innovative that the public and the critics were unable to understand it.The woman in white who sits alone on the shore on a calm summer night, is depicted with a sweeping, almost formulaic line, and the blueish melancholy landscape appears to reflect her own mood. The pale and dry, but still glowing, colour tones of the painting and the frozen, but lyrical expression, indicate that Munch, like so many of the important painters of the time, was influenced by the art of Puvis de Chavannes. The motif comes from the small coastal town of Åsgårdstrand, to which Munch was to return summer after summer throughout his life.
Once in Paris, Munch dutifully enrolled as a pupil with the influential but conservative portrait painter, Léon Bonnat, who held a large class for Scandinavian painters. Munch remained there for a couple of months, as long as it took to make his mark as one of the most gifted of the pupils, until one day he painted a nude against a background as he saw it, green rather than red, as it undoubtedly was, and as Léon Bonnat saw it. Thus Munch provoked an argument, left the school and settled in St. Cloud, on the edge of Paris. Here he painted the Seine outside his windows in varying lights throughout the winter and spring, in order to study, through his own work, the language of form of the Impressionists, although more by ear than by the book. No other Norwegian - nor Scandinavian - painter was so closely linked with Impressionism in this period as Munch. For example, the Norwegian press at that time referred to him as Bissarro, with reference to Pissarro. Munch, however, considered that the demands of the Impressionists to reproduce the actual impression of the moment, in principle, is impossible. In the final instance Impressionism becomes an art of memory. As Munch himself expressed it: 'I do not paint what I see but what I saw.'
The main work from the winter in St. Cloud, however, is Night (1890, National Gallery, Oslo). The monochrome, blueish colouring is reminiscent of James Whistler, and the expressive use of space has roots in the art of van Gogh. The highly reflective and melancholy features of the painting are partly caused by the tension between the life outside and stillness inside.The model is Munch's friend Emanuel Goldstein, but undoubtedly represents Munch himself. In the otherwise empty room, we see the suggestive shadow of the cross of the window fall across the floor.The picture recalls Munch's notes about the relationship between winter and loneliness. His father's unexpected death in December shook him on many levels and stimulated his literary activity. Among other things he writes: 'I lead my life in the company of the dead - my mother, my sister, my grandfather and my father - above all with him - all the memories - the smallest of details, return to me.'
It was also in his grief over his father's death that Munch here in St. Cloud composed what was later called the St. Cloud Manifesto. The 'Manifesto' tells how Munch on a night out in Paris had a vision of painting a series of pictures of 'sacred, powerful moments', a vision which was to be linked to the notes in his literary journals and which was to find shape some years later in his artistic masterwork, The Frieze of Life.
At home in Norway in the summer of 1891 he was to experiment in an entirely new language of form. Munch's first simplistic, synthetic work of art, Melancholy (prob. 1891, P.C.) arises alongside Gauguin's art, Maeterlinck's dramas and French symbolist poetry. The melancholy figure in the foreground is right at the front of the picture, while the couple on the bridge in the background can be seen as part of the mental image of that melancholy figure. The forms are synthetically kept together in large planes, delimited by clear contours. The long curving shoreline expresses the empty and desolate feeling of the melancholy figure. The motif goes back to Munch's friend Jappe Nilssen, who that summer suffered the anguish of jealousy in a three-way relationship with Christian Krohg and his wife Oda Krohg. His friend's despair reminded Munch of his own sorrow in connection with an unsuccessful relationship with a married woman six years earlier. The painting becomes an expression of Munch's subjective suffering through alter ego, which he crystallises into a symbol of general melancholy.
When Evening/Melancholy was exhibited at the Autumn Exhibition, it was first overlooked by the critics. Christian Krohg then produced a long, enthusiastic article in the press which only discussed this one picture. He finds it 'serious and strong - almost religious ... related to Symbolism - the last movement in French art'. And he says that the picture has so musical an expression that Munch should be awarded a composer's pension.
In the following years Munch's scholarship was renewed and he returned to France, clearly working in return for the funding he received but on his own terms. Each year he sent sensational, modern paintings home for the Autumn Exhibition and it was in Nice in 1892 when visiting his painter friend Christian Skredsvig that he produced what he himself referred to as 'his first Scream', today known by the title Despair (1892, Thielska Galleriet, Stockholm). Christian Skredsvig describes how the painting came into being:
For a long time he had wanted to paint his memories of a sunset. Red like blood... 'He is yearning for something impossible and his religion is despair,' I thought but advised him to paint it - and he painted his remarkable Scream.
Edvard Munch's breakthrough as a great individualist in European art came in the form of what was known as the 'scandal exhibition' in 1892. A Norwegian painter, resident in Berlin and secretary of the Artists' Union there, had seen a major one-man show by Munch when travelling through Kristiania. The exhibition can be seen as a desire on Munch's part to present his domestic public with the results from his scholarship, together with previous work. The secretary of the Berlin Artists' Union had Munch invited to exhibit in the Union's premises in Berlin. In the advance press Munch's paintings were referred to as 'pictures of an Ibsenesque mood arousing curiosity both on a social and psychological level'. Since the war between Germany and France of 1870/71, artistic life in Berlin and Paris had polarised. While Paris was opening up to a mass of new impulses, Berlin was isolating itself around the idea of an ideal, educational national art and Munch's exhibition was exploited in this schism. On the opening day the respected grandees of the Union, headed by the conservative painter Anton von Werner, demanded that the premises should be closed to the public on the grounds that it was immoral to show such degenerate art. The canvases were not even properly stretched! This was an insult to the middle-class public in the imperial capital. The press referred to Munch as the epitome of a gifted 'German' artist who had let himself be influenced by decadent French taste and the result was 'anarchic daubs'. The event made Munch famous, or rather notorious, overnight and in the press was described as 'Der Fall Munch'- the Munch Affair.
Munch, however, greatly enjoyed the scandal, and was surprised that something as innocent as art could cause such an uproar. The exhibition toured to Düsseldorf and Cologne, reopening in Berlin in December the same year. He sold almost nothing, but earned a respectable income from ticket sales. Everybody wanted to see an international scandal!
In Berlin Munch quickly became integrated in the circle of literati and artists around August Strindberg and the Polish author Stanislaw Przybyszewski, who often met in the wine bar 'Zum schwarzen Ferkel' (The Black Pig). The environment appears to have acted as a catalyst for Munch, and undoubtedly had great significance in terms of the emphasis Munch was to place on content - what had been subjectively experienced - in his art. A characteristic feature, however, is that the autobiographical aspect of his art is always free of self-pity. It is likely that it was here, in this world of literature, that he realised the sources he had at hand in his own literary journals. Munch himself pointed out in several contexts that he had 'written' The Frieze of Life before he formed it visually.
Gradually a stronger emotional content now begins to appear in his work, inspired by the surroundings in Åsgårdstrand where he spent the summers. Pictures such as Starry Night, The Voice, Red and White and Separation are filled with a suggestive and erotic natural mysticism, often conveyed by using depth and blue tones and long melancholy, rhythmic lines which reflect the curving edge of the shore; works where one can sense the influence of Whistler, Böcklin, van Gogh and Gauguin.
In a restricted sense, The Frieze of Life covers a number of main motifs in painting of the 1890s which was exhibited as a frieze around all four walls of the Berlin Secession in 1902 under the composite title: A Series Of Pictures from Life. Each of the four walls had its own title: the left-hand wall was called Love's Awakening, and included the pictures Red and White, Eye in Eye, Kiss and Madonna. On the next wall hung pictures characterised as Love Blossoms and Dies, including Ashes, Vampire, Jealousy, Sphinx and Melancholy. Then came Fear of Life, where we find The Scream, Anxiety and Red Virginia Creeper, and on the final wall hangs Death with pictures such as Death Struggle, Death in the Sickroom, The Girl and Death and The Dead Mother and Child. Munch himself referred to the frieze as 'a poem of love, anxiety and death' and said that with these pictures he wished to 'explain life and its meaning - [and] help others to clarify their lives'.
This time Munch was discussed widely in the German press, in a debate which was largely unbiased and overwhelmingly positive, opening the door to greater success on German soil. One comment was that: 'In uniting a brutal, Nordic joy in colour, influences from Manet and a tendency towards reverie, something quite unique arises.' The critics pointed him out as an artist in colour, who was also consciously childlike, naive and primitive in his language of form. From previously having been seen as an artistic anarchist, he was now the epitome of a child of nature, uncontaminated by culture.
In his aim to portray 'the most subtle visions of the Soul', Munch establishes a set of constant images and symbols which he uses to suggest strong, often complicated, feelings. These symbols include the frequently used pillar of moonlight - a reflection of the moon on the sea. This phallic symbol immediately conveys erotic associations as well as a melancholy atmosphere. At the same time the sign plainly indicates the line of the horizon and catches the eye, so that it will not lose itself in the picture.
Another central feature is the shadow which can grow together with a person or a group of people to create an emotional unit. The shadow often adds something paralysing, heavy or threatening to the motif, for example as can be seen in the motifs Puberty and Vampire. The curving line of the shore also became a firm symbol in Munch's art. This constitutes the background to several of the love motifs in The Frieze of Life and suggests a lyrical and melancholy mood. The shoreline also creates space and forms a natural border between land and sea.
Several motifs show a woman dressed in white, a statuesque, shining figure, whose presence is purely symbolic in nature. The woman dressed in red, who we see in Ashes, for example, is the symbol of female sensuality while the woman in black becomes a symbol of resignation and bitterness. By placing these female types together as elements in different constellations, Munch also in this respect appears to be playing with his signs and symbols more by intuition than by design.
Colour in Munch's art is often clearly symbolic in nature, although it is impossible to talk about a simple formula for interpretation. However, colour, like the shoreline in Åsgårdstrand, appears to have a concrete basis in reality. A green face can symbolise a passive, suffering attitude in contrast to a red face, which characterises an active, choleric temperament. In Death in the Sickroom (1893) we see, for example, that Munch depicts his father and his sister with red faces while he rest of the family are a greenish pale colour. His father and his sister Laura were restless and hot-blooded in nature, while the other members of the family tended to be melancholic in temperament. In the love motifs the woman is often depicted as filled with blood and in a superior position, while the man tends to be pale and passive.
A composition which Munch often uses to reproduce tension in the human mind is the figure facing front in the foreground with an event taking place in the background, which can be interpreted as the mental picture of that figure - what he or she sees in his or her inner eye.
From 1902 until his breakdown in 1908 Munch was almost permanently resident in Germany, where he completed a number of monumental full-length portraits which were greeted with general respect. These included the portraits of Walther Rathenau, Hermann Schlittgen (The German) and Marcel Archinard (The Frenchman). The models are depicted with deep psychological insight and concentrated strength without the banal hero-worship traditionally associated with his genre. Munch also painted a number of portraits of children and the portrait of the four sons of Max Linde, his patron in Lübeck, has been classed as the finest children's portraits of the 20th century.
During this period Munch often exhibited in Germany, Vienna and Paris. Undoubtedly the work he produced during the 16 years between 1892 and 1908 came to be crucial to the development of the Expressionist movement in art, primarily in Germany but also partly in France. In these years Munch came to take on a more extrovert attitude to life than previously, as indicated by the monumental Bathing Men (1907, Ateneum, Helsinki). The painting was painted in the summer of 1907 when Munch settled down in Warnemünde on the Baltic coast and experimented in a number of different techniques. This life-affirming work is built up with the help of a system of angled strokes. The strictly formulated contrast between the horizontal lines of the sea and the beach and the statuesque vertical shapes of the advancing men contributes to the powerful monumental nature of the picture.
At the same time he painted a number of more realistic, genre-focused motifs, some spontaneously carried out using impasto techniques, like Matisse in his earliest Fauvist works. However, unlike the decorative refinement which was to become a fundamental element in Matisse's art, Munch builds further on his expressionistic base. Often the oil paint is squeezed out in thick layers directly from the tube on to the canvas, as, for example, in Old Man in Warnemünde (1907).
He also uses this technique in a series of highly negatively charged motifs to which he gives the joint title The Green Room; a new and bitter version of the love motifs from the original Frieze of Life, where among other things the elegiac shoreline from Åsgårdstrand is replaced by the interior of a brothel. In many of the motifs the action takes place in the same room, a small box-like stage with glaring green-checked walls with no windows, and only one door on the right in the rear wall leading out of the room. In two of the motifs, Zum süssen Mädel and Desire, we see how consciously Munch uses the round table as an aggressive means of creating space. The fact that the motif is seen at close hand means that the suffocating room is considerably expanded, as if it had been photographed using a wide-angle lens. The contrast between red and green and the fragmented line technique suggests a nervous unease. The sense of strangeness and loneliness is conveyed in a more desperate and aggressive way than ever before and appears to be the common fundamental atmosphere throughout the series.
In this unique technique, the motif The Death of Marat II takes on its final form in one of the most exciting works from the period.The motif goes back to the traumatic break between Munch and his fiancée Tulla Larsen in 1902 when Munch inadvertently shot himself in the finger. The artist's alter ego lies naked on the bed, parallel with the plane of the picture and with a bloody hand hanging down, while the woman stands facing directly forward with her arms straight down by her sides.The picture is built up through a balanced interplay of horizontals and verticals when it comes to the figures, the room and even the brushstrokes.The only break is the diagonal created by the man's arm. Within this highly architectural structure is placed a strong, emotionally loaded, erotic scene, which, with the help of what was at the time an almost unthinkably primitive method of painting, depicts the artist's aggressive attitude to his motif.
Munch also spent the following summer in Warnemünde. Two of the most interesting works from that summer are Mason and Mechanic (also called Baker and Smith and Mason and Butcher, which indicates that the title is not of prime importance) and The Drowned Boy. Both motifs use the same scene, the beach promenade outside Munch's house at Am Strom in Warnemünde, and in both pictures we see a light and a dark male figure walking side by side, one heading out towards the observer and the other inwards into the picture.The experience of a split personality had occupied Munch for several years but here the feeling of 'walking beside oneself` is intensified. Soon afterwards Munch was to summarise the battle between the light and dark forces in his mind with the words:
The influence of alcohol brought the Schism of the Mind or the Soul to its extreme - until the two States like two Birds in a single cage each pulled in their own direction and threatened to Break down or Tear apart the Chain -Under the violent schism of these two Mental states arose an increasingly stronger inner tension - a Conflict - a fearful Battle in the cage of the Soul.
After years of restless life, nervous illness and alcohol abuse, breakdown came in the autumn of 1908 and Munch spent the following eight months in Dr.Jacobson's nerve clinic in Copenhagen. When he returned to Norway he first settled in Kragerø and here began a completely new chapter in his life and in his art. Immediately he began to work for a competition to decorate the Aula (the Hall) of the University of Kristiania. Despite considerable opposition to his entry, he finally won the competition and the decorations were completed in 1916. The central fields in this, his main work in Norwegian monumental painting - History, The Sun and Alma Mater - clearly show the new trends in his art and at the same time bear witness to the importance of his Encounter with the nature of Norway, which resulted in a new feeling for harmony, classic simplicity in composition and bold, vital brushstrokes.
In parallel with the Aula entries, Munch developed a type of landscape painting of a monumental nature, including a series of winter motifs from Kragerø. These include Winter in Kragerø (1912) where the majestic fir gathers together and condenses the monumental landscape. It is solid and cubist, almost Cézanne-like in design. In these winter landscapes Munch used the pure white colour in an unusually bold way.
In The Yellow Log (1912) we see an example of how Munch varied the use of the exaggerated perspective for new purposes. If we follow the stripped log into the picture, our glance is swiftly drawn in and caught by a tree in the background. Munch's use of static and dynamic effect in this period has analogies not only with Italian Futurism and its focus on explosive movement, but also with the kinetic effects of film.
The obvious way in which Munch transferred the image of nature to canvas created a 'Munch complex' in young contemporary Norwegian painters. Nobody managed as he did to create a picture of nature as natural as nature itself, with fast but secure brushstrokes and using a minimum of means. In this period too we also see a number of portraits, bathing studies, nudes and landscapes. Previously he had referred to his paintings as 'my children', now he talked about his landscapes as 'my children with nature'.
The landscapes after 1916 are often composed using an intricate play of convex and concave shape fragments. The young Franz Marc, himself originally an admirer of Munch's art, has clearly inspired Munch to adopt such means to portray man at one with nature. Such a structure can be found in Bathing Man (1918). Also several of Munch's animal motifs such as Spring Ploughing (1916) draw on Franz Marc's depiction of animals integrated into their surroundings.
At the famous Sonderbund exhibition in Cologne in 1912 the intention of which was to provide an overview of the most important trends in modern art, Munch was given his own room. Implicitly he was being presented as the living artist of the greatest importance to the shape of modern art. The next year at the Autumn Exhibition in Berlin, Munch and Picasso, as the only foreigners invited, were each given their own room. But while further developments in modern art were characterised by the free structuring of fragments of reality, as we see in Cubism and Futurism, external reality remained a fundamental element in Munch's art.
Between 1912 and 1915 Munch took up a new subject, the relationship between his alter ego - the ageing artist - and his young model. It is the relationship between man and woman from The Frieze of Life in a new variant. In Man and Woman I and II (1912/15) the scene is his little house in Åsgårdstrand.The diagonal beams in the ceiling creating space in Man and Woman II are strongly accentuated and form aggressive lines. A further element of unease is created in that the male figure in the foreground is deliberately blurred and massive in contrast to the clearly drawn female figure. In Man and Woman I a new formal element is introduced, which Munch was to develop in the following years. This is the sudden appearance of space through an open door in the background where the room behind is often more strongly lit than the main room.
In 1916 Munch settled down at the property of Ekely, with its fields, fruit trees, berry bushes and coppices just outside Kristiania.To the west ridges of Vestre Aker could be seen against the skyline while to the east the light over Kristiania shone in the dark winter nights and to the south the view opened out to the Kristianiafjord. Here he was to find motifs for a large number of landscape paintings in the years to come. While contemporary development in modern painting is characterised by the free depiction of fragments of reality painted without direct reference to an external world, the depiction of reality constantly following times of day and seasons of the year, are vital elements in Munch's art. These pictures are characterised by strong, intense colours and explosive brush strokes. At Ekely Munch had a number of large outdoor studios built where he worked for years on various monumental projects, primarily the series which has been termed The Late Frieze of Life and The Human Mountain or Towards the Light. It is likely that the main motivation for this work was probably a burning desire to produce a large, public, monumental work other than the University Aula.
With the exception of a frieze for the Freia chocolate factory, Munch was never commissioned to produce such a work. Eye disease in 1930 was to put a definite stop to these ambitions. During his years at Ekely, Munch also painted a long series of portraits, both of close friends and public figures. He had several models, his favourite being Birgit Prestøe, who can also be seen in one of the main works from this period, The Bohemian's Wedding. To judge from the many sketches and versions of this motif, Munch was strongly preoccupied by this subject. Eight years earlier he had painted The Death of the Bohemian whose rich painting and rhythmic movement makes it a key work in Munch's later oeuvre. Munch also indicated that he intended to paint a trilogy of bohemian motifs, but the third was never realised.
On the initiative of Munch an exhibition of young German art was arranged in Oslo in 1932. Here Munch was able to see a colourful, almost vulgar painting which was clearly fascinating. The latest work of Schmidt-Rotluff in particular appears to have struck a chord with Munch as, for example, is seen in his latest version of Jealousy (1933/35) where the colours sparkle and the brightness of the light is unusually exaggerated. He also uses these new experiences in replicas of the motifs from his youth. Ladies on the Bridge from 1935 shows how Munch, while retaining his uniqueness, clearly reflects impressions from contemporary art.
Munch also includes his approaching death in new designs of older motifs. The Death of Marat no longer reflects his personal crisis from the turn of the century. In Marat and Charlotte Corday (approx. 1930) we see one of Munch's young models with a knife hidden in a bouquet of flowers, a knife which will soon attack the painter himself.
The self-portraits which Munch created in the last decade of his life all have the underlying motif of an old man encountering death, where he is merciless in his self-analysis.
With the greatest consistency throughout his life Munch created a life's work which would not only enable the deepest problems of the century to live on into our time, but which also says something about human existence which can hardly be put into words. Right up to the last days of his life, in line with Kierkegaard, Munch shed light on anxiety as an existential problem.