Streets filled with
Munch's work becomes more emotional and immediate)
Munch went to Paris and saw for himself the new French Impressionist
paintings he had heard so much about. When he went back to Norway,
he did a painting of Oslos main street. The light, sunny,
sparkling work on the right, Spring Day on Karl Johan, with its
ordinary-looking people and dots of bright color, could have been
done by Monet (mo-NAY) or Renoir (ren-WAR) or any of the other
French Impressionists. A few years later, when Munch was back
in Paris, he received word that his father had died. This event
had a great effect on the artist and he wrote, "No longer
shall I paint inter) ors with men reading and women knitting.
I will paint living people who breathe and feel anf suffer and
on Karl Johan (left), done in 1892, with Munchs first painting
of the street. How has the artists vision changed? In the
earlier workset during the daythe viewer looks down
the street. There is a feeling of depth, the buildings are far
away, and the trees give a feeling of open space. The many people
strolling through the scene seem calm, happy, and orderly.
Karl Johan shows the same crowded street, but seen from the opposite
direction. Is the crowd in this work hap py or calm? They
may be orderly for the moment, but do you feel they will stay
that way for long? Dark figures with vacant, yellow, masklike
faces loom toward the viewer under a dark purple night sky. The
slightly tilted government buildings on either side of the street
surround the scene, while their yellow windows seem to keep watch
from above. The flat shapes, curving lines, and abrupt crop, ping
add to the sinister feeling.
In this painting,
Munch has been able to express new 20th-century feelings about
modern city life. The subject of this Expressionist work is no
longer a city street, but an emotion. With his leaning shapes,
swiftly receding perspectives, menacing skull-like faces, and
anony, mous, shadowy figures, Munch has visualized the feeling
of fearthe fear of a crowd of people in a big city as the
sun goes down and night comes on.
figure moving alone against the flow of the crowd may symbolize
the artists idea of himself as an outsider. Munch described
the feelings that inspired him to create this painting. He had
just seen a woman he knew walking toward him in a crowd. But she
walked right past him. "I felt so alone." he wrote.
"I felt as if people were staring at me, all these strange
faces, pale in the evening light."
Art, Sep-Oct 1996 v27 n1 p4(2).
text black on white