Sunday, December 10, 2017

Edvard Munch: Between The Clock And The Bed.

                      It is possible and even probable that one can leave the stunning Munch exhibition now up at the Met Breuer feeling exalted and yes even happy even though the show itself is filled and fueled with anguish, despair, depression, sickness and death. One of the reasons for the uplift is of course the paintings themselves and how after a century they look as fresh and beautiful as though they were painted yesterday.
                  Munch was a superb draftsman and colorist who even though he was struggling year after year with illness and depression was still able to produce works of grandeur and beauty using a wide range of techniques some of which were shocking and new at the time and still have the nerve to surprise us even today.
                  Also I need to mention his great sense and use of color even when his palette was limited to blacks, blues and grays. The exhibition is small with only 43 paintings included and is mainly concerned with biography and the artist himself which is presented in the many self portraits that Munch did throughout his long life, with one large gallery including most of them.
                The star self- portrait of the show whose title is also the name of the exhibition “Self Portrait: Between the Clock and The Bed” which he painted late in his life greets us as the large elevator doors open. The painting is sad for sure but is brightly painted in light colors and loose strokes and presents the artist posed upright and stiff standing between the two objects of the title a large grandfather clock and a meager bed and looking straight ahead at us like a deer caught in the headlights of an on coming car.
                 The bedspread is the only thing of hope in the painting with its colorful brush strokes and looks like a snatch of a Jasper Johns painting. Those looking for an array of “The Scream’ will be disappointed as there is only one small lithograph of his most famous work and along with Grant Wood’s “American Gothic” the most parodied painting maybe in the history of art. But don’t or maybe do despair as there is plenty of grief to go around here including several versions of “The Sick Child” which was inspired by the death of his sister Sophie and various nightmares hung in a gallery with the theme of nocturnes that should take care of those who require a heavy dose of dread and depression. 

                  Also in the show are two versions of Madonna one tightly painted and is the more famous of the two shown, the second of which is pale and more loosely painted than the first one. Both of them are gorgeous and have always been favorites of mine even though I’ve only known them through reproductions and it was thrilling to finally see them up close and personal. Mainly missing from the exhibition are his images of desire and sex although a few shown allude to the erotic including the great “The Death Of Marat II” and his poignant and shocking “Puberty” which would probably get me banned from facebook if I posted it there. This beautiful and moving exhibition will be on view at the Met Breuer until Feb. 4th.   


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