Munch between clock and bed

One of Edvard Munch’s final paintings – Between The Clock And The Bed – presents a chilling self portrait of an artist who knows death is close at end.

As you exit through the gift shop at the Tate Modern in London after witnessing the exhibition Edvard Munch: The Modern Eye , the recurring image that greets you on T-shirts, books, postcards and calendars is the Norwegian artist’s most famous work – The Scream.

Somewhat bizarrely, this famous image of alienation is one that you will not see in the exhibition itself. The Tate show, curated by Nicolas Cullinan, seeks to present a fresh perspective on Munch’s work from 1900 onwards and showing that he should be viewed as a more complicated and innovative modern artist rather than merely as the creator of a single iconic work.

The tag line for the show is “if you think you know Edvard Munch, think again”.

It does succeed in illustrating that Munch was by no means a sad recluse, wrapped up in his own torment. His interest in theatre, cinema and photography meant that he was a man who followed social, political and cultural trends rather than being someone who wanted to make the world go away.

Nevertheless, with subjects of the majority of his works being of madness, sickness and death, Munch was far from being a happy-go-lucky fellow. The Scream is such a pivotal work that the decision not to include it seems a little perverse.

The exhibition is fascinating and well worth seeing but I’m sure I wasn’t the only visitor who would have liked to see the artist’s most well-known work rather having to settle for a postcard reproduction.

Edvard Munch – The Modern Eye is on at Tate Modern until October 14th, 2012.

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