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Thursday, February 27, 2014

Munch, Edvard


Evening Talk
1889
oil on canvas
size unknown
Statens Museum for Kunst, Copenhagen, Denmark

Munch’s lifelong obsession with loneliness and psychologically twisted love relationship began with this painting. This was the first time that he truly played out the theme that more than anything else infused his depictions of human beings “breathing and feeling, suffering and loving,” to use his own words.

In the summer of 1889 Munch settled at Asgardstrand, a fishing village on the west side of the Oslo Fjord already famous for its community of Kristiania bohemians. Here he staged his tale of absence and loneliness with the theatre critic Sigurd Bodtker and his younger sister, Inger, as models. Munch made Inger older than her 21 years. She appears as a disillusioned woman. The painting is an early example of Munch’s break with naturalism.

"Nature is not only all that is visible to the eye... it also includes the inner pictures of the soul." (Munch)

Edvard Munch (1863-1944) was a Norwegian painter whose intensely evocative treatment of psychological themes built upon some of the main tenets of late 19th-century Symbolism and greatly influenced German Expressionism in the early 20th century. Although Munch was interested in painting since he was a boy, his family was not in love with the idea and urged him to acquire a more prestigious and profitable profession. In 1879, at the age of 16, he entered the Oslo Technical College with the idea of becoming an engineer. He pursued this field of study for little more than a year before deciding that his true calling was art and dropping out of the college. Soon thereafter, he enrolled for classes at the Royal Drawing School in Oslo. He was a quick and able student. At the Royal Drawing School, he was considered one of the most gifted young artists of his day.

Munch grew increasingly withdrawn from public life, after 1920, limiting social contacts and carefully guarding his privacy. He lived alone, without a servant or housekeeper, with only several dogs for company, and devoted his days to painting. It was during this period, ironically, that he at last began to gain the recognition that had been denied him previously by both critics and public. In 1940, Germany occupied Norway. He refused to be associated with the Nazis and the Quisling puppet-government they set up in Norway, isolating himself in his country home. Following the USA's entry into the Second World War in 1942, the painter's anti-Nazi stance gained him recognition there as well.

He died on January 23, 1944, at his estate in Ekely. He bequeathed all of his property, which included over 1,000 paintings and close to 20,000 sketches, woodcuts and lithographs, to the city of Oslo. The Munch Museum was subsequently opened there to mark the painter's centenary, in 1963.