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Edvard Munch

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The art world has a limitless array of mediums and different artistic periods, challenging the opinion of what should be accepted by the masses. “Expressionism is the art of the emotive, the art of tension provoked by consciousness of the forces which surround modern humankind.” Challenging the academic traditions of the previous centuries, Edvard Munch impacted the art world as an instrumental leader in the development of modern German expressionism. His painting The Scream has made its mark in questioning the ideals of what is acceptable concerning the history of art. The paper will discuss Munch’s life history, uncovering the influences which led him to expressionism, as well as a detailed description and analysis of The Scream, including the historical art background of the times and how his work has survived today.

Edvard Munch, a Norwegian artist was instrumental in the development of expressionism. Born on December 12, 1863 at Engelhaug Farm in Loton, Norway, Edvard was the son of an Army Medical Corps Doctor and a loving religious mother. His family moved to Oslo in 1864 where he received his art training. In 1868 his mother died of tuberculosis and in 1877 his fifteen year old sister died of the same disease. Throughout his life he experienced tragedy and death.

Early on in life Munch frequently visited the Art Association and collections in the National Gallery. Pictorial art had become his key interest in life. He was accepted into the Technical College in 1879 but soon had to drop out due to his frequent problems with illness. At the age of seventeen he received a state grant making it possible for him to study in Paris. However each summer he would go back to Norway. During this time period international style, Naturalism, rooted in nature study and a belief in the non-academic study of art allowed Munch the possibility of an artistic career. Before turning twenty he participated in his first exhibition called the Industries and Arts Exhibition. In 1892 he participated in another exhibition in Berlin. Munch created a series of paintings titled, The Frieze of Life, which caused enormous shock within the art world to the point that it had to be shut down. Images were thought to be terrifying and threatening. He had so many feelings that he wanted to unleash upon the canvas and no one understood his pain. Munch’s paintings played a big role in the rise of modern German expressionism, as he joined the Blue Rider and Dresden groups. The blue rider was a group of artists, established in Munich, Germany, that expressed themselves through spiritual truths in their art.

Around the turn of the century many artists were trying to lay the foundation for modern art. In the 1880’s and 1890’s Art Nouveau, an international style of decoration and architecture urbanized. New developments also included, Post Impressionism, which “rejected the objective naturalism of impressionism and used form and color in more personally expressive ways.” At the time Romanticism, a growing artistic movement, was popular to artists like Runge, Goya, Blake and Friedrick, all who inspired Munch during the various stages of his artistic life. However, when compared to other artists of the time, Munch was new and ingenious. Able too courageously and dispassionately “reveal his innermost secrets of his own life, [Munch] stripped [himself] of all self-pity, in a revelation of his own character which in its profundity comprises his philosophy of life.”

Munch challenged the public and possessed the ability to portray the depth and insight of characters with an unusual strength of expression. Regarding himself as one of the pioneers in the history of art, Munch endeavored to establish a personal basis in his art work. He communicated his own existence in a new phase of pictorial art, by going beyond the boundaries of what could be expressed in a naturalistic form. In 1893 Munch began the thought process of the painting The Scream. He heard the scream “in nature and felt a great fear of open places, [he] found it difficult to cross a street, and felt great dizziness at the slightest height.” The piece was first sketched on a piece of cardboard as the composition derives from another one of his paintings Despair. Psychologists have studied his painting and recognize The Scream, “as the fear of loss of self integrity, the fear of being incorporated into the environment.” Munch uses the medium of painting to project his spiritual pain outward into physical expression. In his painting Munch “exists in a different formal order... the landscape behind him is transformed from a setting of place into a state of psychological consciousness.” Munch’s use of color and space “cease to have values in themselves, cease to be created for the sake of illusion... and become subordinated to the expressive content of the painting.” The foreground figure is completely abstracted, personifying a universal feeling of anxiety. Centered in the middle our full attention is put toward this deafening man of such despair. The painting projects so many feelings that are in describable. From the dream-like state to its nightmarish quality, Munch’s portrays the feelings of his past. The lines of the photograph keep the eye moving, coming in and out of the picture. The bridge pulls our eye to the red sky, which is then emphasized on the monstrous, almost alien like figure in the middle.

Munch painted The Scream in 1893, using the new form of the time, expressionism. The expressionist movement did not fully begin until the beginning of the 20th century, allowing Munch to pave the way for artists to follow. He began to express himself at a time when people did not communicate or understand their feelings. His maddest painting, The Scream is becoming “more and more accepted... as the symbol of the modern man,

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