Munch's later career on view at the High
Long an emblem for angst and depression, the swirling blood red sky and horror-stricken phantom in "The Scream" by Edvard Munch is only the barest fragment of the artist's prolific and fascinating body of work. Atlantans venturing to the High Museum of Art this spring will have the good fortune to see beyond that cliched image from 1893. After the Scream: The Late Paintings of Edvard Munch is a remarkable show curated by Elizabeth Prelinger, professor at Georgetown University and a Munch scholar.
Composed of 62 paintings, the exhibition examines the works created by Munch following the infamous "Scream" and his emotional breakdown in 1908. Many don't realize that the artist lived and worked at Ekely, his Norwegian estate, well into the 1940s.
The show confirms the artist's lingering melancholy, while conveying his sense of place and offering the viewer a glimpse of his personal history. In salons tinted in blue, green and lavender, a series of amazing self-portraits punctuate vividly colored pastoral scenes. Viewers who always thought of Munch as a self-isolated loner will see in the large canvasses the heady influence of his contemporaries in France and Germany.
Accented in artificially bright blues, reds and greens, the Norwegian's paintings of horses seem to celebrate Fauvism, German painter Franz Marc and the Blaue Reiter group. "Starry Night II" from 1922-24 boldly borrows from Van Gogh's 1889 oeuvre. His country home with its lush gardens evokes Monet's Giverny. Matisse insinuates his compositional style into other Munch paintings, such as "Self with Bottles" and "Self Between the Clock and the Bed" (1940-42). The men in "Around the Table (Drinking Bout)" (1925) and many of his self- portraits are masked in emotional strokes of red and blue that align the artist with his German Expressionist peers.
Munch's use of color has visceral effects, too. "Ladies on a Bridge" (1935) confronts the viewer with paint that seems to glow like neon. "Jealousy in the Garden" casts the rejected lover as a ghoul, with a sickish green face and red eyes. The palette of two disturbing "eye disease" paintings from 1930 shifts from orange-y reds to purple-y blues. Munch shares his disease, projecting the view obstructed by a burst blood vessel in his right eye into a mass of color that eclipses his self-portrait.
The exhibition is revelatory in its expansive look at the work of this important Norwegian artist. Though absorbing subjects and styles of his time, he remained committed to traditional figurative painting. It's a pleasure to see how his psychologically and emotionally charged painting continued to mature long after "The Scream."
After the Scream: continues through May 5 at the High Museum, 1280 Peachtree St. Tues-Sat. 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Sun. noon-5 p.m. 404-733-HIGH.??