The Art Institute Chicago

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Two potent myths have historically defined the work of the artist Edvard Munch: that he was mentally unstable, as his canonical work The Scream suggests, and that he was influenced by the contemporary art of France and Germany to the exclusion of his native Norway. The Art Institute's upcoming exhibition Becoming Edvard Munch: Influence, Anxiety, and Myth aims to challenge and overturn these entrenched myths by presenting Munch's paintings, prints, and drawings in relation to those of his European contemporaries.

Like the art of Vincent van Gogh, Munch's work has been connected to his emotional pain and supposed insanity. His art was similarly understood in light of modernism's partiality toward creative independence and individuality. Somewhat paradoxically, given this emphasis on a distinctive vision, Munch's work has been interpreted as reflecting the influence of French and German art over Scandinavian cultural patrimony. However, when his body of work is considered in light of his personal diaries and letters, as well as the writings of contemporary critics, a very different picture of the artist emerges. Contrary to the prevailing view, recent scholarship demonstrates that Munch was very much in control of his professional career, a savvy businessman keenly aware of how to manipulate the art market and popular opinion. Moreover, he built his art on specifically Norwegian pictorial traditions.

This rich exhibition will bring together approximately 150 works, including 75 paintings and 75 works on paper by Munch and his contemporaries rarely seen in the United States. Rather than employing the monographic, chronological focus that often prevails in presentations of Munch's work, it will be organized around the following themes: the street and crowd; anxiety and solitude; love and sexuality; nature, bathing, and the neo-romantic landscape; and, finally, death and dying. This arrangement will serve to reinforce the connections between Munch's art and that of his peers in often surprising ways.

Organizer: The exhibition is organized by the Art Institute of Chicago.

Becoming Edvard Munch: Influence, Anxiety, and Myth