Born and raised in Norway, Edvard Munch (1863–1944) was one of the most celebrated and controversial artists of his generation. With only brief formal training in painting, Munch was largely self-taught. He was a prolific artist, creating approximately 1,750 paintings, 18,000 prints, and 4,500 watercolors, in addition to sculpture, graphic art, theater design, and film. Munch was associated with the Symbolist and Expressionist movements and their legacies. He exhibited widely throughout Europe, affecting the trajectory of modernism in France, Germany, and Norway. His influence can be seen in the work of such artists as Georg Baselitz, Marlene Dumas, Katharina Grosse, Asger Jorn, Bridget Riley, and Jasper Johns, among others.
Although Munch attained notoriety early in his career for his haunting depictions of human anxiety and alienation that reflected modern experience, he believed that his artistic breakthrough occurred around 1913 at the age of 50.Throughout his career, Munch regularly revisited subjects from his earlier years, exploring them with renewed inspiration and intensity. Self Portrait: Between the Clock and the Bed (1940–43) was one of his final such works and it serves as a lens to reassess Munch’s body of work. Opening November 15 at The Met Breuer, the exhibition Edvard Munch: Between the Clock and the Bed (November 15, 2017–February 4, 2018, The Met Breuer, Floor 3) will feature 43 of the artist’s compositions created over a span of six decades, including 16 self-portraits and works that have never before been seen in the United States.
The exhibition was on view at San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (June 24–October 9, 2017). After the New York presentation, it will be on view at Munch Museum, Oslo (May 12–September 9, 2018).
The thematic arrangement of the exhibition will reveal the frequency with which Munch revisited and reworked certain subjects. It will present him as an artist who was as revolutionary in the 20th century, as he was when he made a name for himself in the Symbolist era. Major themes and motifs of Munch’s last paintings can be traced back to his earlier works. Displaying his early and late works together allows visitors to identify innovations in composition, treatment, and technique.
The first canvas in the exhibition—Self Portrait: Between the Clock and the Bed—is also one of the last works the artist painted. It will serve as a touchstone and guide to the other works on view. This remarkable painting shows the artist’s bedroom, with a door opening to the studio beyond. The artist stands emotionless between the grandfather clock, which—having no face or hands—exists outside of time, and the bed, in which the span of a human’s life takes place.
Fifteen other self-portraits—a category to which Munch returned often—follow the artist’s path from youth to old age. These fascinating “self-scrutinies” as Munch called them are, by turns, documentary, confessional, psychological, and fictionalized.
Seven works in the exhibition will be shown in the United States for the first time: Lady in Black (1891); Puberty (1894); Jealousy (1907); Death Struggle (1915); Man with Bronchitis (1920); Self-Portrait with Hands in Pockets (1925-26), and Ashes (1925). Also on view will be Sick Mood at Sunset, Despair (1892)—the earliest depiction and compositional genesis of The Scream, one of the most recognizable images in modern art—which is being displayed outside of Europe for only the second time in its history.
The exhibition will include many deeply personal works from Munch’s own collection, now held by the Munch Museum, as well as works from institutions and private lenders from around the world. The paintings demonstrate Munch’s liberated, self-assured painting style as well as his technical abilities, including bravura brushwork, innovative compositional structures, the incorporation of visceral scratches and marks on the canvas, and his exceptional use of intense, vibrant color.
The exhibition is curated by Gary Garrels, Elise S. Haas, Senior Curator of Painting and Sculpture at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, with Caitlin Haskell Associate Curator of Painting and Sculpture; Sheena Wagstaff, Leonard A. Lauder Chairman, Department of Modern and Contemporary Art at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, with Sabine Rewald, Jacques and Natasha Gelman Curator, and Michele Wijegoonaratna, Research Associate; and Jon-Ove Steihaug, Director of Collections and Exhibitions, the Munch Museum, Oslo.
At The Met Breuer, exhibition design is by Michael Langley, Exhibition Design Manager; graphics are by Chelsea Amato and Anna Rieger, Graphic Designers; and lighting is by Clint Ross Coller and Richard Lichte, Lighting Design Managers, all of The Met Design Department.
A fully illustrated catalog will accompany the exhibition. Edited by Gary Garrels, Jon-Ove Steihaug, and Sheena Wagstaff, the publication features a foreword by celebrated Norwegian author Karl Ove Knausgaard. It includes essays by Patricia Berman, Theodora L. and Stanley H. Feldberg Professor of Art, Wellesley College; Allison Morehead, associate professor, Queen’s University, Ontario; Richard Schiff, Effie Marie Cain Regents Chair in Art, University of Texas at Austin; and Mille Stein, paintings conservator, Norwegian Institute for Cultural Heritage Research (NIKU). Published by The Metropolitan Museum of Art and distributed by Yale University Press, the catalog is available in The Met Store (hardcover, $45). The catalog is made possible by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
In conjunction with the exhibition, conductor Leon Botstein, soprano Kirsten Chambers, and The Orchestra Now will perform Arnold Schoenberg‘s operatic monodrama Erwartung (Expectation) on December 3 at 2 pm in the Grace Rainey Rogers Auditorium (The Met Fifth Avenue). The program, which is part of the MetLiveArts Sight and Sound series, is called Schoenberg, Munch, and Expressionism. Tickets start at $30 (series, $75).
On Saturday, January 13, at 11 am and 2 pm, Family Tours at The Met Breuer, for families with children ages 3–11, will explore the exhibition. Space is limited; places will be filled on a first-come, first-served basis. Free with Museum admission.
The exhibition is made possible by Leonard A. Lauder. It is supported by an Indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities. It is organized by The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; and The Munch Museum, Oslo.