Edvard Munch

Since starting my job at the Scandinavian Cultural Center at Pacific Lutheran University, I've learned a lot about Norwegian culture. I guess I has heard of almost everything I've encountered here about Norwegian culture and history, but if it didn't resonate with Icelandic history and culture, It didn't really sink in for me. So this has been quite a learning curve.

One thing I'm leaning more about at the moment is Norwegian art, specifically Edvard Munch, because of a possible exhibition for spring 2016.

I just read one rather cynical article, which claims Munch's diaries, which portray a conflicted, angry, and sensitive person, were always intended to be printed, and were simply part of his marketing strategy. I refuse to believe that; there are very few people able to be so calculating and objective about their own lives. I've also been reading about the terrible response his art got initially, even The Scream; people said that his style was childish, unfinished, crude. So those are the categories available to us, in assessing Edvard Munch. He was a shrewd marketer, or a barely talented lucky hack, or, if one believes the diaries, an unstable, suicidal person.

But then there is the information about Munch as a person who cared financially for his family, and as a lover. My favorite tidbit I've learned is that there is a nun whose grandmother was a violinist and model, with whom Munch had a romantic relationship. The nun doesn't know for sure, but she was told Munch was her maternal grandfather. And she thinks that would be cool. That story humanizes Munch for me, that he might have been someone's granddad. But there's no trace of him knowing about his offspring in his letters or writings, so maybe his life was tortured, or maybe he was a good marketing person, careful in nurturing a certain reputation of himself and hiding what didn't fit. At any rate, people don't seem anxious to embrace the idea of Munch as having some semblance of a normal life. Of course he didn't want a normal life, I don't suppose. He wanted a full life, a passionate life, a life that was real and rich. I don't think the world is really set up for people like that, they always seem to need to hide themselves somehow, and scream about it silently. And then people spend the next 125 years trying to shove them back in sort of box.

The odds are I'll be learning even more about Munch in the months ahead.


Jono said…
Last year I got to see the Munch exhibition in Oslo. You could understand the variation in turmoil in the man.
Jono said…
Last year I got to see the Munch exhibition in Oslo. You could understand the variation in turmoil in the man.

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