Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Munch in the Kunsthal

Munch - The scream

This instantly recognizable painting by Norwegian symbolist painter Edvard Munch is not on view through February 20 at the Kunsthal in Rotterdam.

It does, however, capture a lot of the qualities of Munch’s work that I admire: the swirling colors, intense emotions, and haunted figures.  Sometimes his portraits express difficult feelings so very clearly, other times they depict lonely, desperate people in dark stories.

I’ve found them fascinating: Munch was an obsessive painter who would do a major work over and over, as if trying to get the tension and balance just right.  The opportunity to see a large exhibition of his works is rare, and the Dutch exhibition is both exceptional and disappointing.

The most recognizable works (and others among my favorites) are not included in this collection.  The Scream, above, is missing, and lesser versions of Madonna and The Kiss, below, are shown.

Munch - Madonna 2Munch - The Kiss Woodcut

A wider selection of Munch’s works can be found in my online gallery; here are four that are among the missing:

Munch - Comfort Munch - In Mans BrainMunch - Sick girl (study)  Munch - Salome

Munch - OmegaHowever, the gallery delightfully expands on drawings of the little girl ‘Alpha’, right, displaying a wonderful full wall of drawings including variations on that theme.

Alpha wall



This was my favorite part of the exhibition, it’s a great chance to see his strokes and the way he composes the pictures.

The other nice thing about the exhibition is that it shows a range of works done throughout Munch’s life, showing surprising technical skill and less of his obsessive brooding.  I hadn’t realized that the works that attracted me were only a short phase of his total output, and that he did very accomplished landscapes and portraits as well.


It’s a thoughtful exhibition that traces the chronology of Munch’s works, accompanies by quotes and photographs of the artist and his models that gives a much more balanced picture of his evolution and motivations.

Although I remain convinced that he had a very difficult relationship with women throughout his life.


‘just too many intensely sad faces, repeated.

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