Edvard Munch - Hans Dieter Huber - ebook

Edvard Munch ebook

Hans Dieter Huber

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These lectures emerged in the larger context of the book Edvard Munch. Dance of Life. A Biography. They were held in 2012 and 2013 as public lectures in Norway. These lectures offer additional information regarding some questions and topics, which weren’t discussed in detail in the biography. The first lecture, which was held in September 2012 at the University of Bergen, following an invitation of Professor Dr. Sissel Lagreid, was concerned with reconstructing the ambivalence of this artist. He appears both as a person searching for an authentic construction of emotionality and on the other side acts economically and strategically as an media conscious person. The paper attempts to shed light into a slightly less illuminated side of the artist, mainly the question of the construction of emotion, immediacy and autobiography. On the other side it is trying to work out the forms of “exhibition management” in more detail; how he approaches gallerists, how he works out sales and entrance fees, the way he transports his works and produces its reproductions. The second presentation was held on 6 June 2013 at the 7th Philosophy Festival in Kragerø På Kanten, which was specially dedicated to the painter Edvard Munch. In this paper I have tried to figure out the roots and inspirations that could have guided Munch‘s idea of an eternal cycle in nature, in which new life is born from dead matter. Above all, Nietzsche, Haeckel and Strindberg are the key sources of his inspiration. The third lecture was held in December 2012, as part of the research project „Munch and Modernity“ at the Conference „New Visions. Edvard Munch and Modern Media Culture“ at the University of Oslo. This lecture is trying to take a completely new perspective with reference to the creative processes of Edvard Munch. Using the theme of the kiss as an example, an attempt is being made to explain that it is exactly the media difference which leads to a temporary identity of the representation. As a result of this Munch is probably one of the first artists, who disregards or at least questions the idea of a finished, completed work, and at the same time critizises the notion of the author as someone who tries to find definitive formulations and solutions. Munch temporalized the complexity of artistic identity by dissolving it over and again into new different formulations.

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Hans Dieter Huber

Edvard Munch.

Materiality, Metabolism and Money

rough and ready 12

2014

Impressum:

First Edition

Copyright: © 2014 Hans Dieter Huber

Publisher: epubli GmbH, Berlin, www.epubli.de

ISBN 978-3-8442-8890-2

Printed in Germany March 2014.

Foreword

These lectures emerged in the larger context of the book Edvard Munch. Dance of Life. A Biography. They were held in 2012 and 2013 as public lectures in Norway. These lectures offer additional information regarding some questions and topics, which weren’t discussed in detail in the biography.

The first lecture, which was held in September 2012 at the University of Bergen, following an invitation of Professor Dr. Sissel Lagreid, was concerned with reconstructing the ambivalence of this artist. He appears both as a person searching for an authentic construction of emotionality and on the other side acts economically and strategically as an media conscious person. The paper attempts to shed light into a slightly less illuminated side of the artist, mainly the question of the construction of emotion, immediacy and autobiography. On the other side it is trying to work out the forms of “exhibition management” in more detail; how he approaches gallerists, how he works out sales and entrance fees, the way he transports his works and produces its reproductions.

The second presentation was held on 6 June 2013 at the 7th Philosophy Festival in Kragerø På Kanten, which was specially dedicated to the painter Edvard Munch. In this paper I have tried to figure out the roots and inspirations that could have guided Munch‘s idea of an eternal cycle in nature, in which new life is born from dead matter. Above all, Nietzsche, Haeckel and Strindberg are the key sources of his inspiration.

The third lecture was held in December 2012, as part of the research project „Munch and Modernity“ at the Conference „New Visions. Edvard Munch and Modern Media Culture“ at the University of Oslo. This lecture is trying to take a completely new perspective with reference to the creative processes of Edvard Munch. Using the theme of the kiss as an example, an attempt is being made to explain that it is exactly the media difference which leads to a temporary identity of the representation. As a result of this Munch is probably one of the first artists, who disregards or at least questions the idea of a finished, completed work, and at the same time critizises the notion of the author as someone who tries to find definitive formulations and solutions. Munch temporalized the complexity of artistic identity by dissolving it over and again into new different formulations.

Edvard Munch - a painter between emotion and economy?1

1. Introduction

On 2nd May 2012 The Scream by Edvard Munch was sold in New York, after a 12-minute bidding battle between two unidentified telephone bidders for 119 million dollars. If Munch were alive today, he would certainly be pleased with this financial success. He would have, with his unique, subtle sense of humor and irony, commented on the financial excesses of his image, and certainly found everything „very funny“. Munch parted reluctantly from his paintings, which he once called his children and another time his library. Ever since his earliest sales, he has almost never let the original out of his posession. He finished, virtually overnight, an equal-sized replica of the painting, which was then sent to the buyer. He did the same with the pastel, which was auctioned in New York.2 It is almost the same size as a work two years older, which was the very first attempt to formulate the scream in color.3The Scream once belonged to the Braunschweig coffee maker Artur von Franquet. Together with his brother Eugen, he was one of Munch’s first German collectors, who also had an important collection of his early prints.

2. The biographical trap

If you look at Munch‘s works, they appear at first glance to be a direct and immediate processing of autobiographical experiences: the death of his mother, the death of his sister, the first unfortunate love affair, the gnawing jealousy, the experience of illness and the ongoing madness of his sister Laura. The death of his mother on 29 December 1868, when he was 5 years old and the death of his sister Sophie, on 9 November 1877, when he was 15 years old, have resulted in some shocking and very sad lyrics and a whole series of important pictures like The Spring, The Sick Child, The Dead Mother, or Death in the Sickroom. About his last walk with his mother Munch reported in very sympathetic terms:

It was dark and gray on the stairs. I held her by the hand and pulled on it. I could not come forward or back. So I asked her why she was so slow, she stopped at every stage and was gasping for breath. Outside the front door we were blinded by the light of day. Everything was so bright, so bright. She stopped for a moment and gasped for air. The air was so wonderfully warm with single cold breezes. The grass shot up between the stones of the bridge, bright green grass. It was spring. She wore a pale lilac-colored hat, and the pale red tape fluttered at every gust of wind and blew into her face. So she went down from the garden of the castle to the fortress and looked out to the sea.4

The written records of Edvard Munch have mostly been labelled as a diary, even though they demonstrably originated only 12 years after the death of his mother in Paris. They could therefore at best be characterized as attempts at recollection, but not as a direct journal entry. In numerous sketches Munch tried to find a visual form for the last walk, but the subject cannot be represented only on a visual basis. As a picture it remains an ordinary Sunday walk, no matter how the characters in the picture are drawn. You can not see that there is a „last“ walk and you do not see that the mother‘s death is near. Munch was confronted repeatedly in his paintings by the problem of visualizing invisible, inner states of human beings.

The same is true of his first great love affair with Milly Thaulow, the slightly elder, married wife of his cousin. Munch gives a record, which appears as an immediate processing of a personal, highly emotionally charged memory.5

He went up and down Karl Johan street. The clock stood at seven in the afternoon. It was still daylight ... He turned to the clock, then went across the street, looked straight ahead and watched. Suddenly. Then she comes. He recognized her and it went through him like an electric shock. ... The ladies were so nice. They looked absolutely fantastic. Their faces gleamed pale in the yellow light. ... The person in his carriage had to be Mrs. Heiberg. Or did he make a mistake, because all of them resembled her? And finally she came. He had felt long in advance that she had to come. Pale as a silhouette against the horizon, a little tired, in a black dress, tight at the neck, the beautiful, attractive, yellow-white neck. He had never seen her look so beautiful.6

But if you hear that there are about 45 different versions of this story, it makes you thoughtful about your first impression of an excited and emotional encounter with his lover. Suddenly it does not look, as if these designs were quite as spontaneous as they seemed to be upon first reading. Let‘s take a closer look: On the next page of his notebook Munch starts again with exactly the same description of the scene that he always varies slightly in wording and sentence structure.

And she finally came. He knew she had to come. [He saw] only her pale, slightly rounded face, horribly pale in the yellow glow from the horizon, which stood out brightly against the dark blue behind it. I had never seen her look so beautiful.7

On the next page he is again, now for the third time at that spot.

Then she came. He had felt it long in advance, that she would arrive on time, as he had previously met her so often. The round face, slightly pale, the round head, the yellow silhouette came out brightly against the sky against the dark blue behind it. .... He’d never seen her look so beautiful before.8

His methods of writing follow the same strategy as his drawing or painting techniques. In ever new variations he works his way closer and closer to possible formulations. His text fragments and his drawings are embedded in a space of possibilities and potential changes, but always remain in the same stable core of narration.