The Museum of Modern Art has mounted a stunning and gratifying exhibition titled “Edvard Munch: The Modern Life of the Soul.” The title may be somewhat pretentious, but the display itself is not. MoMA has assembled some 87 paintings and 50 works on paper for the exhibition, which runs through May 8, 2006. Most importantly, the selections reflect the breadth of Munch’s vision and not just his well known dark side, although that certainly is also represented.
This is a special opportunity to become better acquainted with the renowned artist (1863-1944). His most famous “Scream” paintings are not there—a stolen one is still being hunted down. However, there are two “The Scream” lithographs, one black and white, the other with watercolor additions.
Included are numerous self-portraits, which demonstrate how the artist saw himself at different stages of his life. He also did an intriguing portrait of the great playwright August Strindberg, as well as other impressive portraits of various individuals.
Some very upbeat work includes a striking painting of children and various paintings doting on women, including a whimsical one titled “Red-Haired Girl with White Rat.” There are street scenes from Oslo and his “The Ages of Life Triptych” reveling in naked men.
Of course, there are also paintings related to jealousy, illness and death, including the poignant “The Drowned Boy.” Munch’s somber side is repeatedly evident. But generally people have not been aware of his broad interest in life and his surroundings, as reflected in other aspects of his work. This is certainly the occasion to broaden one’s knowledge of Munch and to appreciate the artistic skill and the intensity that make him so fascinating a subject. Chief Curator at Large Kynaston McShine is to be commended for organizing the extensive treat.
The exhibition is in the Joan and Preston Robert Tisch Gallery on the sixth floor. At the Museum of Modern Art, 11 West 53rd Street. Phone: 212-708-9400.