An Edvard Munch exhibition opens at Tate Modern today. Curator Nicholas Cullinan writes on the Tate blog that the exhibition looks “beyond the clichés of Munch as an angst-ridden and brooding Nordic artist who painted scenes of isolation and trauma” to focus on the neglected aspects of his often radical work, particularly his use of film and photography, and his “obsessive reworking of motifs.”
Edvard Munch The Artists’s Retina: Optical Illusion from the Eye Disease, 1930, watercolour and pencil on paper 49.7 x 47.1 cm, Munch Museum/Munch-Ellingsend Group/DACS 2012. Courtesy Munch Museum, Oslo.
I also learned at the Tate blog that when Munch was 66, he suffered a serious intraocular hemorrhage in his right eye, and, later, another one in his left. The condition left a blind spot, splotches and blood clots that impacted both his vision and his painting. He documented the effects in watercolors and drawings, but the visual impairment affected his other work as well. Michael F. Marmor writes in Tate, etc.
Munch drew several types of images during his convalescence. A recurrent one is a set of concentric circles, often vividly coloured, which resemble the aura that one sees around bright lights on a foggy day. It is possible that these represent a view through his resolving haemorrhage as he looked towards an electric light or the sun. He annotated many of his drawings “electric light”, “sunshine”, etc, to indicate the conditions under which they were made, but did not actually date them. The order of colours varies, so they don’t appear to be illustrating a rainbow effect, which would be constant. Whatever else, they do show that Munch must have been intrigued by the patterns of light and colour that suffused his eye as the haemorrhage slowly cleared.
Read the entire fascinating story here
Edvard Munch, Disturbed Vision, 1930, oil on canvas 80 x 64 cm. Courtesy of the Munch Museum
Edvard Munch, Self-Portrait: Between the Clock and the Bed, 1940–3,
© Munch Museum/Munch-EllingsendGroup/DACS, 2012.
“What really counts here are the paintings, with their swooning fluidity
and their weirdness, their interrupted rhythms, their intimacies and
drama. Perhaps what Munch was best at was painting emptiness and
waiting, things impending. He may be best known for The Scream, which
isn’t in the show, but it is not his best painting, and gets in the way
of the totality of his achievement.”
Edvard Munch: The Modern Eye, curated by Nicholas Cullinan, curator of international modern art, Tate Modern,with Shoair Mavlian, assistant curator. Tate Modern, London, 28 June – 14 October.
Munch: Navigating the messiness of his own present (2009)
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