Edvard Munch: Love And Angst Dominate In An Emotional Exhibition By The Scream Artist

Edvard Munch, The British Museum ★★★★☆

Tabish Khan
By Tabish Khan Last edited 6 months ago

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Edvard Munch: Love And Angst Dominate In An Emotional Exhibition By The Scream Artist Edvard Munch, The British Museum 4
A vampire feasts on her prey. Image courtesy The Savings Bank Foundation DNB

A man clasps his hands to the side of his head and opens his mouth, horrified by the scream that he's hearing as the world around him seems to ripple with energy. Edvard Munch's The Scream is one of the world's most famous artworks, and a version of it has arrived at The British Museum — but this exhibition looks at much more than the one work he's famous for.

The same darkness that embodies The Scream comes across elsewhere in this impressive collection of prints. A red-headed vampire feasts on the neck of a bent over man, with viewers left to imagine the unseen blood dribbling down her chin. Nearby, a wild-eyed woman makes eye contact with the viewer, while holding a bowl of acid in her hands ready to disfigure whoever has slighted her.

The work that will draw the crowds. Photo: Thomas Widerberg

We do not want pretty pictures to be hung on drawing-room walls. We want... an art that arrests and engages. An art of one’s innermost heart.

There's more angst in this show than you'd find in a teenager's bedroom. Munch's depiction of love shows two lovers staring deep into one other's eyes, but the dark background and their hollowed out eyes look like something out of a Tim Burton movie. Love isn't a fairy tale, it's raw and it hurts, is the definite message here.

A rather strange Madonna surrounded by sperm and a foetus. Image courtesy Munchmuseet

Munch had plenty of reasons to feel such despair — his mother died when he was five and his older sister when he was 13. These memories, forever imprinted on him, are exposed in a painting depicting his aunt mourning the death of Munch's sister, and a print that shows Munch as a child mimicking the pose of The Scream, his hands covering his ears as his dead mother lies behind him.

Unsurprisingly given his tumultuous life, Munch's works are raw, lonely, sad and often disturbing — but that's what makes them so evocative and gives them a magnetic hold over us.

Even when together these two look so lonely. Image courtesy Munchmuseet

Edvard Munch: love and angst is at The British Museum from 11 April-21 July 2019. Tickets are £17 for adults.  

Last Updated 09 April 2019