Art Review: Edvard Munch (Tate Modern, London)
Review date: 9 July 2012
Review by: Alexa Williamson
Rating: ***** (out of 5)
When one hears the name Edvard Munch, they think of the painting The Scream. It is famous and has been seen all over the world (whether it has been through replication, in the news as various versions have been stolen, or in person). However, people probably don’t think about Munch’s work in context to his entire life (1863-1944)
Munch is an artist who had a life of ill health and, for me at least, this can be seen in his various works. Not only did he have poor sight for quite a while in one of his eyes, he also also suffered psychosis due to alcoholism.
Living often in Paris and Berlin, historians claim that he had a precarious existence, was part of a bohemian literature and artists group, and that his paintings, prints and drawings were “saped by emotional and psychological states rather than a naturalistic representation of the world” Munch also had a nervous breakdown in 1908 which likely attributed to the way he painted at the time.
For me, the strength of Munch’s work is the colours he paints with and the way he paints. His strokes are very often furious, the colours always deep and the way he paints, although the figures might be vague at times, they always have an interesting density to them. He is a desolate, master painter, which this exhibit gives a good historical backing to, but he still is misunderstood. Fortunately, Munch and his touching works are not treated not clinically, but the exhibit could have had a bit more tenderness – and explanation - for the torment he suffered as it is more evident in his work than many artists’ work.
Like The Scream, much of his work is haunting and all are extremely poignant. Beautiful pieces worth seeing, which are dotted throughout the rooms include Galloping Horse (1910-12), Starry Night (1922-24), The Human Beings, The Lonely Ones (1905) – these are all very beautiful. And then there are many of his passionate paintings, which involve the deep colours and wild brush strokes and in some case frightening corpse-like nudes – such as Weeping Woman (1907-09).
Munch also paints some interesting street scenes and people, which are also worth seeing. He very much likes repetition.
With over sixty paintings on show, and a thorough look at what he achieved in the 20th century, this is a solid exhibit that de-cloaks, or moreover discovers, an amazing artist with a lot of depth in his work.
Definitely worth checking out. Actually, due to the amount of his works on show in one place, it is a once-in-a-lifetime-type-deal not to be missed if you can afford the ticket!