Elizabeth Willson’s Take on “Edvard Munch: Master Prints”

The Vampire (Vampyr), 1895

On two occasions I have had the pleasure to see Edvard Munch: Master Prints, an exhibition currently running at the National Gallery of Art, here in Washington D.C.  The exhibition – which runs until November 28, 2010 – features over fifty of Munch’s lithographic, woodcut, and intaglio prints.  Pulling from three collections (the National Gallery’s own collection, and the private collections of the Epstein Family, and that of Catherine Woodard and Nelson Blitz Jr.), the exhibition showcases Munch’s haunting impressions of love, sin, modern life, and alienation, among other topics.

There were a few aspects of the NGA’s exhibition that really struck me, and that led to richer contemplation and a very enjoyable experience.  The first element used to great effect was the curator’s choice to juxtapose different versions of the same composition; this led to the viewer questioning how composition choices such as color, placement, and scale can affect the inherent meaning to both the artist and the viewer.  A good example were the three Sin prints, in which the different hair color chosen by Munch give three totally different visual and emotional impressions of the same theme.  Secondly, the exhibition’s focus on Munch’s personal life and how his feelings were communicated through his methods and chosen subject matter are particularly moving; the viewer feels both sympathy for and empathy with the artist’s plight.  On the whole, Edvard Munch: Master Prints is a fantastic, moving assemblage of work that should not be missed.

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