How Did Edvard Munch Attempt To Visualize Intense Emotion In His Paintings?

1446 words - 6 pages

Question 1: How did Edvard Munch attempt to visualize intense emotion in his paintings? Discuss in relation to particular paintings.

Edvard Munch is a highly influential artist, pioneering many of the ideas that informed the German Expressionist movement. The crux of his work is in the reflection the death, grief and emotion of his own experiences. Drawing from his own tortured upbringing, with the death of his father, brother and sister, as well as his own mental and physical illnesses. There are several ways in which he visualises this emotion in his work. Through form, colour and technique Munch translates his obsession with psychological states into highly striking works that have resounded through generations of artists and audiences.

One notable stylistic feature of Munch’s works is the way in which he dissolves the forms into a representation of their essence rather than focusing on them individually. He aims to capture an emotion in a work rather than creating pictures of the ordinary. As he states in a diary entry in 1889 “No more interiors should be painted, no people reading and women knitting. They should be living people who breathe, feel, suffer and love. People shall understand the holy quality about them and bare their heads before them as if in church.” The figures interact with the scenes around them, the mood of the painting often resounding between the two. A classic example of this in one of his most notable works The Scream. The central figure merges with the sway of the background, the agonised expression on his face echoing in bands of colour through to the blood red sky. By reducing the figure to a clothed skull caught in a moment of emotional crisis, Munch translates a feeling of anguish to the viewer immediately. However in works such as The Dance of Life, the emotion behind the painting is less obvious. The influence of the symbolists is clear here. The phallic reflection of the moon and the sinuous molding forms of the dancers suggests sexual anxiety. The subtlety of this, contrasts The Scream (both works included in the series The Frieze of Life) causing the viewer to delve deeper to understand the theme of the work. Munch worked with many different styles throughout his career and the reduction of form shows the influence of the expressionists and the art he would have seen while he lived intermittently in France between 1889 and 1892. He changes focus from the representation of physical form and instead into a study of psychological experience and passion that expresses a modernity of attitude.

The colours, dark in hue, but brilliant in intensity, scream of the intense emotion portrayed by Munch. His works from the turn of the century have a reoccurring colour palette. Presenting the same window to a tortured world with blood red skies, pale skinned beings, and dark mysterious corners. In one of his earlier works, The Sick Child, made after the death of his younger sister, the colour scheme is dominated...

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