THE stark, haunting image has been seen by millions across the world. The original painting, estimated to be worth a staggering £50 million and the subject of numerous attempted thefts, is regarded as an Expressionist masterpiece and its influence has even extended to inspiring a series of Hollywood horror films.
Audiences are familiar with Edvard Munch’s The Scream, and now a rare version of the painting – one of several created by Munch – has gone on show in the Capital as part of a major exhibition of his work.
Edvard Munch: Graphic Works from The Gundersen Collection features more than 50 of Munch’s most important prints including a number of unique, hand-coloured impressions by the artist – among them the extraordinary bleak version of the world-famous The Scream. Pål Georg Gundersen was inspired to build his collection following his encounter with the artist’s painting The Sick Child in the National Gallery of Norway, and several impressions of the related print will be included in the show.
The collection of lithographs and woodcuts show Munch’s pioneering working processes and highlights the integral part printmaking played in his artistic career. Primarily dating from the period 1895 to 1902, the collection includes many of the motifs that Munch grouped together as a series entitled The Frieze of Life that focused on universal concerns of love, anxiety and death.
This is the only UK showing of the collection, previously exhibited at the Kunstmuseen Bergen, Norway in 2010, and at the Musée des Beaux Arts, Caen, France in 2011.
Lucy Askew, senior curator at the Gallery, said they were thrilled to secure the exhibition, especially the rare lithograph version of Munch’s most famous work.
“Munch was known to take a serial approach to his work, and so he would create several different versions of a lot of his major pieces,” she said.
“There are four known different painted versions of The Scream, for example. The lithographs of the Scream were created around 1895, two years after the painting, and it is evident that he was looking to take out the essential lines and forms from the piece to create a really powerful version of the work.
“Munch was also known to hand colour his lithographs after creating them and this is one of only two known hand-coloured lithographs of The Scream – the other is in the Munch museum in Oslo – so we were really thrilled to get it.”
Edvard Munch was born in Norway in 1863. Many of the artist’s most striking pieces are the prints he made throughout his career, which express his technical mastery and artistic vision. Print-making appealed to Munch as it allowed him to get his images to a wider public, and he was innovative in the different processes and methods that he employed.
The exhibit marks something of a return to the Capital for the artist’s work. It was in Edinburgh in 1931, that he held his first UK solo exhibition, which at the time sparked great debate about modern art.
“During his life Munch was very well known in Europe and had exhibited widely there, and in 1931 he was invited to hold his first solo UK show in Edinburgh, by the Society of Scottish Artists who had a remit to bring the work of international artists to Scotland,” said Lucy.
“It was well received and is known to have heavily influenced a lot of Scottish painters, but it also sparked a debate which in many respects is still going on today, about what it means to be a modern artist.”
By focusing on prints, the Gundersen collection provides an insight into the artists’ pioneering exploration of universal concerns which made him one of the most influential artists of his day.
And while The Scream is undoubtedly Munch’s most famous work, visitors to the exhibition might be surprised to recognise many of his other pieces.
“His work will be known to people from various forms, and he was hugely influential on the work of artists such as Andy Warhol with his use of line and form and colour,” said Lucy. “He was a very experimental artist and was always using different paper and technique to see what effects he could create, and that is perhaps why he was so influential.”
• Edvard Munch: Graphic Works from The Gundersen Collection runs from April 7-September 23 at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art. Admission is £7/£5