Edvard Munch was born and trained in Norway. He initially went to school to be an engineer, but he dropped out after the first year and enrolled at the Royal School of Art and Design of Christiania, Norway. His talent was clear from the beginning. He experimented with impressionism and naturalism, though as his ideas and talent evolved, so, too, did his style. Some of Munch’s work has been classed as symbolist for the manner in which he captures ideas, but he is best known in modern art circles as an expressionist.
While initial public response to his work was generally negative, Munch received a scholarship to study in Paris thanks to his first one-man show. There, he was introduced to the works of Paul Gauguin, Vincent van Gogh, and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, three modern painters who captured and vividly painted human emotion. Unfortunately, his studies in Paris were cut short upon the death of his father, possibly his worst critic and best supporter. Munch returned home and took charge of his family. He felt his father’s loss deeply, along with the death of his mother and sister during his youth.
Munch suffered much loss and difficulty in his life, often leading him to paint macabre scenes which the general public found disturbing. Later in life, after receiving treatment for his anxiety and possible alcoholism, Munch’s work exploded with color. He painted more portraits and vibrant landscapes as opposed to some of the previously depressing themes he tended to cover in his paintings, such as The Sick Child.
Regardless, one of his most popular paintings was created before he sought treatment. Edvard Munch is best known for his soul-wrenching painting The Scream. With the contrast of yellows, reds, oranges, and blues and it’s pallid figure caught mid-scream, the painting is at once evocative and startling. Munch painted two versions of The Scream and also created two pastel versions of what has become an iconic piece of modern art.
Edvard Munch’s body of work shows a consistent evolution of style that intrigues art students to this day. His paint strokes, color choices, and subject matter show the determination of a man intent on illustrating the world as he saw it in hopes of answering grander questions about humankind and the self.
Similarly, New York abstract artist Diana Hobson utilizes the ideas of form to explore human emotion and possibility. Her 2013 painting Breaking Through vibrantly captures the exhilaration of shattering restrictions and rising above prescribed roles or ideas. In addition, Munch’s bright colors are present in Diana Hobson’s oeuvre. The contrast of hues and shapes brings a visceral reaction, without relying on the depiction of human forms.
In a way, Diana Hobson’s modern art subtracts the representation of figures, but maintains the excitement and depth of feeling. When considered opposite of Munch’s The Scream, Madonna, or The Portrait of Friedrich Nietzsche, a similarity of form and rawness—a generated electricity—is visible in both painters’ work. Both artists’ work provoke emotion and force the viewer to look within themselves for understanding.
The Scream by Edvard Munch, 1893. The National Gallery, Oslo, Norway. Image courtesy of Wikipedia.
Breaking Through by Diana Hobson. Copyright Diana Hobson. Used by permission.