The pain of love. (influence
of Edvard Munch's personal life on his work)
love with death in his life and art. The two women closest to
him, his mother and sister, had died when he was young. And he
had had several disastrous affairs, one somehow ending with the
artist shooting off one of his fingers. In 1892, Munch began a
series of paintings on the subject of love. He called it The Frieze
of Life, "a poem of life, love, and death."
In the first
work (left to right, top to bottom) The Voice, a woman stands
in the moonlight on a summer night waiting for love. (Munch later
wrote that this image was based on his first childhood romance.
He had to stand on a hill to look into the eyes of a much taller
girl). The vertical trees express the womans tension. She
finds love in The Kissthe two faces become one shape, but
then she betrays the man and runs off with someone else. In Melancholy,
the man broods under a sky filled with gathering clouds. Land
and sea blend together until, in the final imageThe Screamthe
figure and backgound become one anguished swirl. A swooping diagonal
pulls the viewer into the picture and increases the feeling of
series was first shown, the images so outraged critics and the
public that the exhibit was closed after a week. One critic called
the paintings "visions of a sick brain." Another dismissed
them entirely, saying, "There is nothing to be said about
Munchs pictures. They have absolutely no connection with
to paint his themeslove, betrayal, and deathfor the
rest of his life, at times combining them all in one picture.
In The Dance of Life (pages 8-9), the young girl in white on the
left reaches out toward life. The central woman in red lives life
while she can, and the older woman on the right stands with clenched
hands gazing at the center couple. The grinning masklike fig
ure in back clutching a girl in white suggests traditional Scandinavian
images of Death dancing with a young girl.
As the new
century went on, Munchs work gained recognition. But as
the artist said, "My fame is increasing, but happiness is
another thing." In 1908, one of his increasingly frequent
"nerve crises" ended in a breakdown and he was treated
at a clinic. The artist continued to paint, but no longer sold
his work. He thought of his paintings as his family, and wanted
them with him since, as he put it, "I have no one else."
Munch died peacefully in his home in 1944.
Art, Sep-Oct 1996 v27 n1 p6(2).
text black on white