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5.4.10

Munch, Beyond the Scream


Edvard Munch, The Seine by Saint-Cloud (1890, Munch-Museet, Oslo)
The Scandinavian expressionism of Edvard Munch has not appealed much to viewers in France. There are not many of his works hung in museums there: the Musée d'Orsay has had one exhibit devoted to him, in 1991. A little show at the Pinacothèque de Paris, on the Place de la Madeleine, has proven wrong the assumption that the French do not like Munch, with its small exhibition rooms filled with people. The exhibit has some paintings, but not the famous ones from Oslo (the show's subtitle is "The Anti-Scream"), but it is the drawings that fascinated Philippe Dagen recently, as he wrote in his review (Edvard Munch, merveilleux dessinateur, April 4) for Le Monde (my translation and links added):
The principal merit of the show is found in the considerable number -- more than a hundred -- of drawings and lithographs. On paper or stone, Munch never hesitates. He finds images with ferocious efficacy. He invents allegories of concupiscence, betrayal, or jealousy that have the force of reality. Faces and bodies are reduced to signs rendered even more penetrating by the opposition of white and black. Dry point, wood engraving, and lithography are of equal appeal to him. The Sick Child, Madonna, The Lonely Ones, Vampire, and Attraction are violent proof of that.

One room is devoted to the 22 pages of a sort of fable in images drawn by Munch in 1908-1909, Alpha and Omega. One looks at them without really understanding the meaning of the story, assuming that there even is one. It is more just a series of obsessive and impossible images, sometimes slapstick, sometimes tragic. They alone make a visit worthwhile.
Edvard Munch ou l'Anti-Cri -- the subtitle also makes an interesting pun with the word Antichrist -- remains open through July 18. Many of the works are on loan from private collections and therefore very much worth seeing.



Translation of the video: The furtive steps of visitors in the shadow of the work of Edvard Munch, 170 paintings. Nothing official: these are works owned by private collectors. Munch produced 4,000 paintings and lithographs, and he refused to sell them. The exhibit at the Pinacothèque [de Paris] reveals a little-known side of the most famous Norwegian painter.

Visitor: "This crying nude is really magnificent. One feels the emotions that he was able, that he wanted to express. I really like this exhibit."

Munch ou L'Anti-Cri, people are coming from Norway to see this exhibit of paintings that are rarely shown in public, but visitors will not see the most emblematic painting, The Scream. The point made by the exhibit is that Munch's work cannot be summed up by The Scream.

Marc Restellini, director of the Pinacothèque de Paris: "There is a certain amount of anguish in his work, it was a big part of his life. But that was also fairly short, and in fact it stops in his work around the year 1900. At that point, he became serene, the anguish disappears, he finally managed to replace his neuroses with other things. We see him develop a style of painting that is extremely calm and serene, filled with color."

This sweetness is found in his landscapes of the Norwegian countryside and in family scenes. Three years before The Scream, Munch was in Paris. He painted a view of the Seine at Saint-Cloud in 1890 [painting shown above]. The Pinacothèque de Paris truly invites us to see the destiny of a life, which is exactly the title of this work in colored pencil.

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