Sunday, November 2, 2008

The Scream Heard Around the World

Parts relate to whole, the chain holds on, and where it ends, unknown – Alexander Pope, An Essay on Man

The esteemed psychologist, Carl Jung coined the term synchronicity and defined it as "meaningful coincidences," Perhaps the fact that a lithograph printed in 1895, Edvard Munch’s masterpiece Das Geschrei (The Scream), was offered at $2/3 million. at auction at Sotheby’s just a few days ago and the fact that the iconic image has become a comical viral hit on the internet could qualify as an example of synchronicity.

Das Geschrei exemplifies Munch’s frequent exploration of negative emotion such as misery, despair and the depths of the human soul and psyche. Although most people are aware he painted multiple versions of the composition beginning in 1893, many are not cognizant he also produced several lithographs, of his signature image. Exploring the subject from a different perspective, the graphic versions of 1895 refine the earlier painted treatments of Das Geschrei , emphasizing line over color. The inscription on the bottom right of the lithograph being auctioned at Sotheby’s is printed in German Ich fühlte das grosse Geschrei durch die Natur (I felt the great scream throughout nature).

Munch was a key pioneer of Expressionism amd used the genre of landscape as a vehicle to express inner states of being. In depicting nature in a highly individual, internalized manner, Munch draws on the tradition of stemningsmaleri ('mood-painting'), characteristic of Nordic art towards the end of the nineteenth century.

In the late twentieth century, The Scream acquired iconic status in popular culture and been used in political humor and advertisement. However, it does not hold exclusive claim to this phenomena.

The American regionalist painter Grant DeVolson Wood repeatedly asked Dr. B.H. McKeeby, a local dentist, to pose for for him but was consistently turned down, as the dentist did not want to garner any resultant attention. Having been reassured that Wood was only a local painter without hope of significant recognition, the dentist finally gave in to the self-taught painter and posed with the artist’s sister Nan for a painting of a Midwestern farmer and his unmarried daughter.

Grant Wood’s American Gothic gained significant attention in 1930 when it was exhibited for the first time at The Art Institute of Chicago and awarded a prize of 300 dollars. The painting has since become part of American popular culture, and the couple has been the subject of endless parodies, including a recently-created variation casting Sarah Palin and John McCain as the narrow-minded couple. Some believe that Wood used this painting to satirize the closed-mindedness, tunnel-vision and repression that has sometimes been said to characterize the American Midwestern culture.

As I write this blog, the world waits poised to discover who will win the US Presidential election. It will be fascinating to discover how artists, including cartoonists, will respond when the votes are finally tallied, and which iconic paintings they will choose as models to reflect their resultant emotions.


Kim said...

ah yes an interesting thought Sharon....which art work will fit the bill...when it comes to the winning party..
I love both these works ..particularly the Munch...
I have sold two copies of the Cry....and it was an interesting experience painting in his expressionistic style....
there was a Renoir painting that has been the subject of many makeovers too ...the Bathing Party... or was it called the picnic....

Sharon_Hart said...

Thanks for your comment, Kim. Are you referring to the Luncheon of the Boating Party by Renoir? See If so, I wasn't aware of it having been used as a makeover. Would love to see some of them, as I've seen the original one that is in the Phillips Collection in Washington, D.C.

Would also love to see aa copy of "the cry" you painted. Artists learn so much when we attempt different styles, especially those we wouldn't ordinarily embrace. I recall creating a portrait in the Cubist Style of Picasso and Georges Braque. I walked away with greater understanding of the difficulty of the style, but re-committed myself to developing my own approach to subjects.

Richard Reeve said...

the difference between the synchronous and synchronicity is the the second has the uncanny aspect as being nothing but meaningful...I do love Munch's work, and your post brings me back to a fine show Yale mounted of his prints. Your noting the McCain/Palin American Gothic is sharp seeing and gives a context to something I had not laid my finger on as of yet...Thanks