Have been meaning to make it to this show, have the flyer right here on my desk in fact.
It’s true that the artist Edvard Munch (1863-1944) was a hopeless alcoholic who checked himself in and out of various sanatoriums, a Norwegian Lothario who never married and was shot in the left hand by Tulla Larsen, one of his mistresses, when he attempted to end their affair. (Fortunately he painted with his right hand.) But the Art Institute of Chicago’s engrossing exhibition “Becoming Edvard Munch: Influence Anxiety and Myth” (through April 26) rejects the popular notion that his art was a product of his creepiness, a perception that Munch energetically developed himself.
Although Munch is classified with the late 19th-century Symbolist painters whose intense images of inner torment paved the way for 20th-century expressionism, this exhibition demonstrates the broad range of other styles he employed, including naturalism and Impressionism. To be sure, the first major piece in this exhibition, “Self-Portrait With Cigarette” (1895), reinforces the view that Munch was not normal. The artist depicts himself in a Bohemian pose, wreathed in a blue-black haze of cigarette smoke. His face, eyes and hand holding the cigarette are the only luminous points amid swirling shadows. But the show, curated by Jay A. Clarke, surrounds some of Munch’s best work with art of his contemporaries — much of it from the Art Institute’s own rich Impressionist collection and its deep collection of prints and drawings — suggesting that his various themes, motifs and painting styles were only in part contrived to further his reputation as a sick and socially aberrant artist, and were essentially derived from art that he saw and loved.
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Insanely busy though for the next few weeks. The show is up until April, however, and according to something I read, members1 have access to the museum an hour before it opens (i.e., less crowds). Anyone want to go with me?
Members enjoy private viewing of the exhibitions the first hour of every day.
- I recently renewed my subscription [↩]