“One evening I was walking down a road – on the one side lay the town and the fjord below me.
I was tired and ill – I stood gazing over the fjord. The sun set – the colours of the sky were red – like blood. It felt as if a scream was coursing through nature – I seemed to hear a scream.
I painted this image – painted the clouds like real blood – the colours screamed.
This became the image The Scream in The Frieze of Life…”
– Edvard Munch
Many of you will be aware of the recent auction of Edvard Munch’s The Scream at Sotheby’s. The most expensive auction of a painting in the whole of the universe at $119.9 million.
I was never really aware of its status in the world. I had only ever taken note of it when a teacher showed the work to us in class, during a talk which wasn’t even about painting (it was about jazz). Even then, I never really concentrated on its meaning. ‘Oh! It’s a sad face on a bridge.’
Currently, there is an Edvard Munch exhibition at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art. The exhibition does not present his paintings but his prints. I paid a visit as a complete stranger to Munch.
No, my exams aren’t over yet, but I decided to treat myself by having a glimpse of someone else’s world.
At the moment, even though school is on a half-term break, I am staying at school (exams are still on-going). The gallery was almost empty, probably down to the fact that everyone is at work or something. Half the time, I found myself completely alone in an exhibition room.
I say that I was a stranger to Munch’s work, but I had some idea of what I might see: I knew his works made an impact to modern art. In my first glances, I saw dark shadows on the walls. The first works I saw were self-portraits; a disembodied head wearing a sad expression, floating in pitch black.
I read every bit of writing which I could find on the walls of the gallery – the stuff that told you about his history, the recurring themes in his work and his influences. I can produce a very bland and basic summary: Munch had a profound connection with death, sadness, women and human suffering .
The two ‘Anxiety’ prints were particularly striking to me. (I secretly took those photographs. I could have probably found them online somewhere.) Munch wrote:
“I saw people behind their masks – smiling, phlegmatic – calm faces – I saw through them and there was suffering – in all of them – pale corpses – who restlessly hurry – rush hither and thither – along a torturous path – the end was the grave.”
Being alone in the room with the people in these paintings, made me feel uneasy yet still in mind. Here is the iconic The Scream in the form of a print:
I stood in front of this, staring at it for a while, unsure of how it made me feel. The eyes are a lot more piercing than in the original painting. There must have been a lot beauty and despair mixing in his mind. I would have stayed longer, but it was approaching four o’clock and I was due back at the boarding house for that time. I left the exhibition.
I spent a whole chunk of time in the gift shop, playing with and admiring things that were created for pure luxury, eventually leaving with a usual postcard. I walked back to school, with my shoes in my hands. My flats were giving me blisters.
And now I have displayed my weird, bony feet to the whole of cyberspace.
I would highly recommend visiting this exhibition. I’d love to hear what people think of his work. Meanwhile, I am trashing my schoolwork. I never have to do science again. Summer is finally here which beckons for basketball and ice-lollies.
For more on Edward Munch please visit Artsy, which has a page dedicated to his works. https://www.artsy.net/artist/edvard-munch