Exhibition Review: Edvard Munch: Master Prints

The Edvard Munch exhibition at the National Gallery (through November 28) is a must see. Even if you are not a fan of Munch, and I must admit I find his work to be extremely uneven, the exhibition presents a fascinating selection of his graphic works and a powerful exploration of his complex working methods. Munch was nothing if not a highly ideosyncratic print maker. He regularly combined multiple techniques together: sometimes using planographic, intaglio and relief techniques on the same print. He also would add color to work using hand-coloring or stenciling and would use uncarved tonal blocks in which the grain of the woodbloock itself played both a coloristic and expressive role. In addition to more traditional a la poupee inking technqiues, he would also cut his blocks into pieces, jigsaw fashion, in order to allow them to be inked individually. Finally, he rarely, if ever, decided on a final state or version, often radically rethinking (or remaking) the works in the process. Many of these features can be found in the most powerful works in the show. Images like Towards the Forest II, Two Women by the Shore, Vampire II and The Kiss all represent triumphs of both artistic expression and artistic experimentation and the exhibition and accompnaying catalog do a great job in tracing both the aesthetic and technical aspects of Munch’s work.

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