Edvard Munch | Graphic Works from The Gundersen Collection

  • 7th April − 23rd September 2012 | Modern Two (Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art) | £7 (£5)

Anxiety of Life and Death

While death was a common theme for Symbolist artists during the late nineteenth century, Munch’s tragic family history lent the subject a deeply personal resonance for the artist. By the age of thirty-two, four close family members had died and in his journal Munch noted that ‘illness and madness and death were the black angels that stood at my cradle’. In particular, the premature death of his favourite sister Sophie, when she was fifteen years old, affected Munch profoundly, and drove him to produce an extraordinary body of paintings and prints that show his sister on her sick-bed. Munch considered the lithograph of The Sick Child his most important print, and it is a central image in his series The Frieze of Life.

Alongside these works, and also forming part of The Frieze of Life, Munch worked on images dealing with existential human angst. These not only reflected his own fragile emotional state, but articulated contemporary unease in the face of modern, and increasingly urban and secular life, ideas that were discussed by the literary circles of which Munch was a part. The most famous of these is The Scream, an image that has become a universal icon.

Next: The Lonely Ones