Monday, May 9, 2011

Edvard Munch - Evening Melancholy I

"In a strongly emotional state of mind, a landscape will have a particular effect on one.  By portraying this landscape, one will produce a painting which is effected by one's mood.  The mood is the main thing, nature is simply the means."
                                                                             - Edvard Munch

Edvard Munch, Evening Melancholy I, 1896 (color woodcut)
Munch took part in the decorative craze that was going on especially in France at the end of the 19th century.  He conceived a group of 22 paintings that he worked on as a group like Monet's series paintings, hoping to sell them together.  He wanted it to be a picture of life with a Nordic theme. Life, Love, Fear, Death, Melancholy.  Wanting to give something back to humanity, Munch decided to paint feelings, not a photograph of nature, or a pretty picture to hang in a drawing room.

Emotion and anxiety, all those feelings that have importance for human beings were important to Munch and in order to emphasize the aura of intense emotion he wanted to evoke, he would use shadows and rings of color around his figures. Munch worked on various different techniques to create the images of his paintings with different mediums to find the affect different materials would have on the meaning of his work.

Munch taught himself printmaking and created his own prints. He would take the whole and cut it into 3 jigsaw woodcut pieces which would aid him and make the multicolor printmaking process easier.  He experimented a lot with reproducing prints of his paintings which allowed him more flexibility and the different materials provided opportunities for experimentation and innovation.

Like Gauguin, Munch used printmaking to aid the character of his art.  He liked the little imperfections saying it made the work more real, more sincere.  The natural grain of the wood would be part of the element of design and technique.  Gauguin used the 10 woodblock prints for his journal/novel from Tahiti, Noa Noa,  to aid him in giving his audience the essence of the place.  Munch used the different woodcut prints to explore the essence of human emotions.

In Melancholy I, Munch depicts his friend Jappe Nilssen, sitting by a lone, desolate shoreline, in deep thought.  His shoulders are stooped, his expression grim, he seems to be looking into the depths of the water. He is a dark figure alone on a dark landscape.  The red of the sky could be indicative of his desire to have someone to love in his life.  When we compare this image to Gauguin's Nave Nave Fenua (Delightful land) we can see the distinct difference between the two artist, how they looked at life and their environment.  Gauguin wants to represent to us this delightful land full of happy, native women where life is primitive and natural while Munch is showing us the anxiety that is part of the human condition in a modern world.

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