The British Museum has announced an exhibition to show the “raw human emotion” of Edvard Munch’s art, marking the largest UK exhibition for the Norwegian artist in almost a half a century.
Among the 83 artworks sourced from around the world is a rare original print of Munch’s most famous work, “The Scream”, which was lent by a private collection in Norway. It is the first time in over a decade that an original version of his portrayal of mental anguish will go on display in the UK.
The Munch Museum in Norway is said to be lending around 50 prints from its collection and three matrixes, Munch’s indented stone or wood surfaces that he created to transfer ink to the printer paper. Matrixes were often discarded however Munch was known to keep his, recalling them from publishers and eventually donating them to the city of Oslo along with his collection.
The British Museum said the exhibition would focus on Munch’s “remarkable and experimental prints – an art form which made his name and at which he excelled through his life – and will examine his unparalleled ability to depict raw human emotion”.
Munch’s painful childhood had him suffer from the early death of his mother and sister from tuberculosis and a straining relationship with his father. This directly fed into his art and fuelled his desire to explore the emotions of love, anxiety, loneliness and grief. Later in life, Munch endured a series of painful relationships which further propelled him to explore the ideas of suffering through art.
His mastery of printmaking reached worldwide fame in the twenty years leading up to the first world war, when he travelled across Europe by train and worked between Berlin, Paris and Norway.
Munch’s works were considered highly avant-garde at the time, with his portrayal of a dying child causing controversy at his first show in Berlin in 1892. This wasn’t necessarily due to the subject matter, but because the canvas seemed to be half-complete.
The British Museum’s exhibition curator, Giulia Bartrum, said that “people simply weren’t used to unfinished paintings that looked like his hands had been rubbing into the paint, trying to express the urgency and pain of the moment of death.” His show only lasted a week but Bartrum said that it was a major success among Berlin’s contemporary artists.
The show, scheduled for April is sponsored by the AKO Foundation, a Norwegian hedge fund set up by Nicolai Tangen, a well-known patron of the arts who studied at the Courtauld Institute. Tangen’s collection has over 3,000 works, making him the biggest private collector of modernist Nordic art in the world. He is said to be converting a space in Kristiansand, in southern Norway, into a museum for his collection, scheduled to open in 2021.
“Edvard Munch: love and angst” will run from April 11 through July 21 at the British Museum in London.