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Edward Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944) : Madonna (1895-1902)

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About the document

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  1. Introduction
  2. Edward Munch in a historical context
  3. Characteristics of Norwegian art before Munch
  4. Munch's experiments with multiple techniques
    1. A painting suggesting that Madonna is injured
    2. The importance of the frame
    3. Death and the Maiden: A young woman embracing a skeleton
  5. A personal style
  6. Oskar Kokoschka inspiration: Munch's
  7. Conclusion
  8. Bibliography

Madonna is one of Munch's most popular images. It is a mix between a controversial image linked to a controversial artist, and a transcendent representation of women through different aspects. These are reflected in the different titles that had the painting: Madonna, Conception, Loving Woman, Monna and Annunziata. The first exhibition of Munch's paintings in Berlin in 1892 triggered a real scandal. He had been invited by a circle of painters called the Berlin's artists union. It was the first time that he exhibited his works abroad. Deeply disturbed and shocked by the Munch's paintings, a majority of German artists that were very conservative in terms of style decided to close the exhibition in spite of the protest of some artists among them who were interested in the boldness of Munch's pictures. Only a very few persons could view the Madonna, hidden in the back rooms of galleries. That is why it became of very special image, symbol of the enigma of life and death, the secret of woman sexuality and capability to give life.
If it is difficult to put Edward Munch in a historical context, is because when he lived he had already epitomized the anarchist and individualist figure. He was considered a kind of genius on the fringes of society and removed far the painting movements of his times. According to him, he was living at the beginning of new times. Consequently, he thought the birth of a new century had to match the radical changes in terms of the subject of paintings. In his Saint Cloud Manifesto written in 1889, but not published until 1929, he explained that he wanted to depict ?living people who breathe and feel suffer and love?. With this, he rejected the emotionally neutral subjects of Impressionism, and evoked his determination to paint pictures expressive states of mind. Consequently, suffering will be omnipresent in his work. Suffering through love towards death, suffering more mental than physical, realized by gesture more than by action, by facial expression more than by event.

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