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Edvard Munch

Though certain compositional strategies recur regularly in the paintings and graphic works of Edvard Munch, the origins and specific uses of these strategies have not been fully investigated. The question of compositional types, and their relation to types of expression, has been subordinated to a concern with what is expressed in the individual works, and how this relates to Munch's personal experience. Critics and scholars have, therefore, tended to assess Munch's output in a manner that emphasizes the persistence of thematic material across such formal categories as compositional type, use of line, and others. The equally pronounced persistence of compositional strategies has only become a major subject since recent scholarship returned to the question of sources, including the formal models that influenced the forms of Munch's expression. The reemphasis on the French context of Munch's stylistic development, for example, has enabled a clearer view of the influence of individual French artists. One of the most interesting cases of such influence is that of Pierre Puvis de Chavannes, one of the most unlikely godfathers of modernism. Like Gauguin, other Symbolists and Synthetists, and a surprising number of Scandinavian painters, Munch was strongly influenced by Puvis' classicizing allegories. Following a discussion of Munch's compositional strategies as embodiments of symbolic form, the nature of Puvis' accomplishment and Munch's use of forms adapted from Puvis will be examined.

Puvis' unusual idiom was designed for the expression of rather grand allegories in which precise iconography was less important than the creation of mood. Puvis' strategy was deliberately non-narrative, and tended to delimit the boundaries of interpretation without focusing it too rigidly. This, as an analysis of Munch's work will show, was similar to the manner in which Munch employed elements of Puvis' idiom. There are no rigid dividing lines...

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Edvard Munch. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 22:52, June 24, 2019, from