Thursday, February 9, 2012

Painting Feelings

Sorry about no post yesterday.  I was feeling a bit like this:

Edvard Munch, The Scream, 1893, Nasjonalmuseet Oslo Norway

Know the feeling?

This painting is very well known in our culture, although certainly not as famous as the Mona Lisa, featured in my last post.  It's an image that we have all seen so often in fact that just say "the Scream" and it swirls around in our heads without even needing to see a photo.  I was thus struck, upon searching for a photo for this post, by how vivid the colors are in this painting.  The vision of it in my head had been darker, one of the quirks of memory.

Munch's The Scream is an example (arguably the most classic example) of Expressionism.  This is the name of an art movement focusing not on visual reality but on emotional reality.  The movement came out of post-impressionist experimentation, but it was reacting against the philosophies behind movements like impressionism.  Impressionism is far to big a topic to describe now, but suffice it to say that impressionists were seeking in their paintings to capture a moment of the world as they saw it, focusing on modern figures living in the city around them, and studying light effects.  Expressionists tossed this goal out the window and sought to capture their personal inner worlds.

7 comments:

  1. The swirls are the dizziness; the dark contrasting the light are the highs and lows; the figure is running away from the two figures approaching, unable to engage with others. That is my dark interpretation of the painting.
    I can also see it in a positive way: A new day is rising over the dark pond; the screaming figure is not alone, others are coming to help; although the figure is 'wavy' like the ominous pond, he is centered on the sturdy straight walkway protected by a rail from the other side.

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    1. I love hearing you're understanding of the painting. Art historians generally argue that expressionists were focusing on their personal individual perspective. This may be true but what is so interesting is that their personal perspective can communicate so much to other people too.

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  2. Because of its raw emotional power, an aspect of this painting not commonly emphasized is the remarkable sky coloring. Is that a real impression? Northern skies can produce amazing quality of light. For those close to New York, there is a current exhibit called "Luminous Modernism" at Scandinavia House featuring works by Nordic artists including Munch and Hammershøi. Here is the link:
    http://www.scandinaviahouse.org/events_exhibitions_current.html

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    1. I'm not sure whether the sky color is supposed to be referencing something Munch really saw in the sky outside his imagination. The Oslo Nasjonalmuseet website does say that the painting is an interpretation of a real place: "Despite radical simplification, the landscape in the picture is recognisable as the Kristiania Fjord seen from Ekeberg, with a broad view over the fjord, the town and the hills beyond".

      And thanks for the exhibition tip. Watching the slideshow of pictures on the website, I saw one with a similarly colored sky: Akseli Gallen-Kallela's "Marie Gallén at the Kuhmoniemi-bridge"

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  3. colorful and dizzy! losing control! The couple in the background appear to be calm.

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    1. I think the calm couple in the background add to the eerie feeling of the painting. It looks as if the world os going mad and losing control like you say, and yet only the screamer and the viewer are noticing it. The two other figures continue as if nothing is happening.

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  4. I hope you are feeling much better!

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