Saturday, 28 July 2012
Edvard Munch: The Modern Eye - Tate Modern, London
19th July 2012
This exhibition is on show in Tate Modern until 14 October 2012.
Munch ‘The Scream’ has often been in the news. Munch made several copies of this work and one came up for auction recently. One of the
paintings has been stolen more than once and this has only increased the Munch name to a much larger audience. Oslo
Several years ago I was at a private view of a major Munch exhibition in the National Gallery. The Scream was on show with much of Munch other works. I still have the catalogue somewhere. I was sighted at the time.
I had visited
Oslo in midsummer and in December when sighted and the contrast between the two seasons reminded me of the north of during the same periods. Since I lost my sight, I had visited Scotland Oslo for a long weekend in the early summer, when the days were getting longer, though it was still rather cold on the fjord. Oslo
Munch had a standard Scandinavian outlook if one believes in stereotypes. Studying plays by Ibsen and Strindberg makes one dismiss some dark detective stories popular on TV just now as lightweight. Munch had many problems over health, family and his failing eyesight. I was particularly interested in this aspect. Marcus Dickey Horley from Tate sent me the room guides and picture labels in advance and I could work out rooms of interest. These centred on his reworking of paintings, self portraits, theatre work with Max Reinhardt for the Berlin Kammerspiele over Ibsen’s Ghosts and the eye drawings.
This room had many small artworks, including self-portraits and photographs. The photographic work is too small to make out much. There is an old clip of a black & white film and a longer reel in a darker area. Some works which I enjoyed and discussed were:
X42025 self- portrait
This room is laid out with reworkings of paintings as if they were placed opposite. Initially we zigzagged across the room to compare and contrast. Eventually we followed the perimeter of the room.
X41712 The Girls on a Bridge
X40573 The Girls on a Bridge
The Girls on a Bridge is a famous theme of Munch, with the colours of the dresses being almost discernable to me against the bridge and the background trees and shrubs.
X40572 The Sick Child
N05035 The Sick Child
The Sick Child is another theme of Munch, considering some of his close family died from tuberculosis.
X40571 Kiss on the Shore by Moonlight
X40566 Kiss on the Shore by Moonlight
X40585 Two Human Beings, the lonely ones
X41839 as above, cordoned off
Very small pictures
Munch had been experimenting with cameras and distortions of perspectives and as this section is called Optical Space, it was interesting to note how my peripheral vision picked up some of the lines. One sensed the horses coming at one; the workers leaving en masse put one in the frame; and the The Yellow Log provoked a remark: “Ah, Hockney!” from both of us, much in the same manner as one would say: “Ah, Larkin!” whenever Hull University is mentioned. (Ref. Alan Bennett and The History Boys)
X40626 Galloping Horse
X40623 Thorvald Lochen – angular
X40630 Red Virginia Creeper
X40945 Street in Asgardstrand – girl bottom centre
X40631 Murder on the Road – face at bottom
X40627 The Yellow Log
X40629 New Snow in the Avenue
X40624 Workers on Their Way Home
X40628 On the Operating Table
This is a section on Stage. I had been looking forward to this but found some of the background on the set design rather off putting and nothing like as pleasing as Picasso or even Hockney for that matter. These are the paintings depicting the setting of Ibsen’s play Ghosts (which I haven’t seen performed on the stage itself).
The rooms have odd angles making distorted cubes and a really unsettling wallpaper, which is a recurring theme showing some deterioration in Munch’s vision. I sometimes get strange patterns when faced with old-fashioned anaglypta wall coverings, where the seams of the paper had been badly laid out producing strange lines.
X40670 Man and Woman by the Window with Potted Plants
X40669 Man and Woman – cramped
X40672 The Artist and his Model
X40668 The Murdered
X40635 To the Sweet Young Girl
X42258 Death Room
Weeping Woman - 5 of them!
X40678 is one of them
Also a sculpture
X40705 The House is Burning
X40706 The Splitting of Faust
X40708 The Fight
X40707 The Fight
X40709 Uninvited Guests
X41966 Street Workers in the Snow – wire around
X40710 Sailors in the Snow
Very small photos
Starry Night is a well-known painting and I could make out the stars. There is also a head in the lower part of the painting, though the body has a shadow projecting into the centre. This is a very nice composition.
X40695 Man with a Sledge
X40696 The Sun
X40701 Kristian Schreiner Standing
X40699 Starry Night – head and shadow showing
X40693 Children in the Street
X40733 Portrait in
X40734 The Night Wanderer
X40735 Self-portrait with Bottles
X40738 Self-portrait between the Clock and the Bed
X40565 Self-portrait with the Spanish Flu
X42324 Man with Bronchitis
This room has many ‘disturbing’ pictures of Munch ‘reflecting’ on his deteriorating vision after suffering a haemorrhage in his right eye in 1930. The haemorrhage was in his good eye and thus increased the distortion, as he painted both himself and his eye in quite close detail.
My friend found it rather disturbing watching me take a close interest in the paintings of Munch’s eyes. This friend of mine has known me as a sighted person and probably thought my ‘seeing’ these pictures would be disturbing. Munch has painted many extraneous lines which people with impaired vision sometimes get on good vision days and bad vision days. These are distortions caused by the brain trying to interpret different information in good eye / worse eye conflict.
It would be interesting if Tate Modern, the RNIB and perhaps The Royal College of Ophthalmologists could organise a short workshop based on perceptions of vision. Several ophthalmologists have voiced their own opinions on sight loss to me over the last 11 years and one sometimes gets the impression in some blind charities that they do not always appreciate the broad spectrums of sight loss and how it affects cognitive function. Such a symposium may put art, medicine and the visually impaired on a better balance. If you agree with this, lobby your eye clinic, art gallery and blind charity.
X41989 Self-portrait with Wounded Eye
X40740 Disturbed Vision
X40747 Artist’s Injured Eye
X42276 Disturbed Vision
X40749 Artist’s Injured Eye
X40756 Artist’s Injured Eye
X40754 Artist’s Injured Eye
This is a very interesting, though disturbing, exhibition as it reflects many dark themes. There is a lot to appreciate in this exhibition which has been “organised by the Centre Pompidou, Musee national d’art moderne,
Paris in cooperation with the Munch Museum in Oslo and in association with Tate Modern, .” London
Postcards that I bought include:
The Girls on the Bridge 1927
Oil on canvas
New Snow in the Avenue 1906
Oil on canvas
Street in Asgardstrand 1901
Oil on canvas
The Yellow Log 1912
Oil on canvas
Starry Night 1922-4
Oil on canvas
Lithographic crayon, tusche and scraper
The original paintings are in the Munch-museet in
The Bank side exit from Blackfriars has lifts operating from both north and south tracks down to the ticket hall. Though there is still construction work on the doubling of the Thameslink, access to the Embankment is straightforward and the Tate Bank side turbine hall can be reached after a short walk downstream, keeping the river on your left hand side.