“Whereas most Munch exhibitions have tended to take Munch at face value, displaying works that reinforce the myth of his tortured persona, Becoming Edvard Munch will consider his rich and varied production within the context of his peers, those whose works Munch could have seen and been inspired by,” according to Jay Clarke, Curator of the Exhibition and Associate Curator in the Department of Prints and Drawings at the Art Institute.
For us, the most intriguing and satisfying aspect of the exhibit was the historical context. For example, we didn’t expect to see Claude Monet’s The Boulevard des Capuchines with Munch’s Rue de Rivoli. But Munch may have seen the Monet work on a visit to Paris in 1889. Since both he and other northern artists were influenced by the French Impressionists, it’s not surprising that he choose to interpret the same subject—a street scene—in his own way. He even chose the same perspective—looking down at the street from a balcony or window. But there is a fundamental differences in the works—the Munch style.
Notice the striking similarity between Madonna and Sin. Yet this is Munch’s impression of a woman in the act of making love. Note the fertility symbols: sperm are swimming around her, a red halo and a fetus in the lower left corner. Is she a femme fatale or an earth mother? When these two works are compared side by side, as they are in this exhibition, Munch’s conflicted sexual orientation become quite evident.
These are but a small sample of the feast of ideas the Art Institute so beautifully presents in this intriguing exhibit. Come expecting a fascinating examination of an artist intimately connected with the art of his time, cogently able to promote his own career and enormously expressive of his tumultuous emotions.
Now, about The Scream. It doesn’t travel because, in the past, it has been stolen twice. So the Art Institute has included its own lithograph of the work, shown below. If you feel you must see it one more time, go to the exhibit, see it first, get it out of your system and then discover the real artist behind the iconic work. Then you’ll be able to appreciate the fact that The Scream is not his signature work but one look inside the mind of a multi-faceted artist who expresses himself in many stunning, sometimes disturbing, evocative ways.
Tickets: Until April 26. Special dated tickets to Becoming Edvard Munch are required, and advance tickets are strongly recommended. Call 312-930-4040 or purchase tickets at the museum. For online purchases, visit the Art Institute's Web site: www.artinstituteofchicago.org.
Photos: Art Institute of Chicago