Edvard Munch — The Scream
The Scream (1893)
Oil, tempera, and pastel on cardboard. 91 × 73.5 cm — Nasjonalgalleriet, Oslo
Two years ago, during a holiday trip in Norway (I wrote a about it at the time) I had the opportunity to go to several museums in Oslo and see paintings by Edvard Munch (1863-1944), a national celebrity there and a painter I love.
The (National Gallery) owns about sixty paintings by him, from his early years up to 1920, and the (Munch Museum) owns most of the work of his later years, that Munch bequeathed to the city of Oslo.
Munch would often perform several versions of his works, including what is probably his most famous painting, The Scream (Skrik). The Nasjonalgalleriet holds one of two painted versions, displayed opposite. The Munch-museet holds the other painted version and one pastel. Another pastel is privately owned. Munch also made a lithograph of the image.
I found it very interesting so see different versions of a same painting displayed at the same time in these museums. Differences are sometimes big between works that look similar at first sight. Beside The Scream, it is the case with another famous painting by Munch, Madonna. This canvas is essentially the erotic depiction of a beautiful young woman who sleeps — or is perhaps swooning in an orgasm — with her black hair let down and her body laid bare. It is a painting I love for several reasons — including the fact that the model reminds me of a friend I had once.
Edvard Munch — Madonna
Edvard Munch — Madonna
Madonna (1894-1895)
Oil on canvas — Nasjonalgalleriet.
Madonna (1893-1894)
Oil on canvas — Munch-museet.
When I was in Oslo in August 2006, I saw the 1894-1895 version of Madonna (above on the left side) in the Nasjonalgalleriet. The warm tones of this version of the painting make the sensuality greater than in the version owned by the Munch-museet (above on the right), where cold tones stand out.

Edvard Munch — Madonna (lithograph)
Madonna (1895)
Lithograph — Munch-museet.
I could not see the latter though, because it had been stolen from the Munch-museet two years earlier, together with their version of The Scream. Both paintings were recovered in 2006, a few days after I left the country (coincidence only, I swear!). They and are now presented together in the Munch Museum.
Munch made a Madonna lithograph in 1895, that I saw in the Nasjonalgalleriet too. The expression of sexuality of the model is increased in this work, and spermatozoid-like motives are included in the frame (which is painted and part of the picture, in the Art Nouveau style). Sexuality here is closely associated with darkness and death though. An unborn fetus in the lower left corner of the picture introduces the notion of an abortion.
Nobody knows who the character portrayed in Madonna was, yet you can imagine there was a close relationship between Munch and her: the same woman was portrayed, in 1894-1895 also, in another painting by Munch named The Day After (Dagen Derpå).
Edvard Munch — The Day After
The Day After (1894-1895)
Oil on canvas — Nasjonalgalleriet.
It is the morning probably. The title of the painting implies that something big happened the day before. A young woman lies on a bed, upon the sheets. Her bed? not sure. She is still dressed, but her blouse is open on her breasts.
Two bottles and two glasses on a table indicate that she was not alone until little time before. You cannot see anyone else on the room though. Either she is alone, which means a man abandoned his prey after having obtained what he wanted... either Edvard Munch himself is looking at the scene, and you see it through his eyes. You don't know what hapenned, yet you feel sorry for this girl. As a man, you almost feel like apologizing.

4 comment(s):

    If there are two drinks, it does not necessarily mean that something horrible happened to her at all. At least in my eyes, they had some drinks together, and perhaps had sex. She is not laying in the parlor, but in her bed. There is an intimacy to drinking with a man in one's room. A one-night-stand should not be a horrible thing. Her hair is draped over the edge of the bed...not tangled and matted; her clothes are not torn, her shirt is open. As a woman, I see her and think, she's happily exhausted from a night of passion. Or perhaps that is me being wistfully optimistic.


    (Isn't it nice to chat about what an unknown woman portrayed more than one century ago did or did not do?)

    A one-night-stand between consenting persons is not a horrible thing for sure — just the opposite even — but she remained dressed during such a night of passion? I doubt. If there was sex on that night, I believe she was not glad at it. And if there was no sex, I think whe was not glad either. Granted, perharps we only see a young women who drank too much the evening before, and will awake with a hangover, but she was not alone then, and she is alone now.

    Obviously, we will never know, and everyone will interpret the scene in their own way. I don't see any happiness in this painting though, but sadness and loneliness.


    I find both this post and your comments are intriguing and in a way very stimulating, which makes me reflect on oneness with and without love.. :) *bisous*


    Thank you for the comment, L'air... and welcome!


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