Melancholy By Edvard Munch
Also is known as Jappe on the Beach, Jealousy or Evening) is a painting by the Norwegian artist Edvard Munch. Munch painted multiple variant versions of the expressionist work in oil on canvas during the period 1891–1893. The painting depicts a man with his head resting in his hand in a pensive mood at the edge of a shoreline. Munch’s works belong to Symbolism, an art movement that emphasized the depiction of the tangible world through the lens of subjectivity and emotions. Strongly believing that humans were powerless in the face of love and death, the artist frequently portrayed the most turbulent emotions in his paintings, which included anxiety, fear, loneliness, despair, jealousy, and desire.
Painted in a Symbolist style, with lines, colors and figural distortion to reveal the seascape through the prism of sadness and jealousy, Melancholy is part of a series of similar paintings and woodcuts that Munch completed in the 1890s. The artwork shows a man brooding in the foreground, succumbed to sadness, with his body turned away from the scene that is causing him pain: a man and a woman who is standing on a jetty, in the background, about to embark on a boat. The couple may physically be there, on the pier, but the expressiveness of the painting seems to make no distinction between imagination and reality. Whether the man is simply imagining the two lovers going away or he is acutely aware that they’re nearby, is of no consequence. The pain he is feeling is just as real.
The inspiration for the painting was an unhappy romantic affair that Munch's friend, Jappe Nilssen, was involved in. In Munch's painting, the figure of the melancholy man is at the right, and his mood is represented by the undulating shoreline and skylines that extend toward the left. The melancholic man was a friend of Munch’s, the journalist Jappe Nilssen. At the time, Nilssen was involved in a relationship with a married woman, Oda Krohg, and he was suffering from the ramifications of being caught in a love triangle, being overwhelmed with sadness, jealousy, and hopelessness. Critics suggest that there are also erotic allusions, perhaps in the presence of the Moon reflected on the water. The landscape represents Asgardstrand's beach where Munch spent his summers from 1889.
Edvard Munch Painting Symbolism
Here we see a clear symbolist tendency in the simplification and stylization of form and colors. In a text that can be linked to this motif, Munch noted:
I was walking along the shore – the moon was shining through dark clouds. The stones loomed out of the water, like mysterious inhabitants of the sea. There were large, broadheads that grinned and laughed. Some of them up on the beach, others down in the water. The dark, bluish-violet sea rose and fell – sighs in among the stones … but there is life over there on the jetty. It was a man and a woman – then came another man – with oars across his shoulder. And the boat lay down there – ready to go.
The picture’s thematic content refers to Munch’s friend Jappe Nilssen and his unhappy love life around this time. The landscape is based on the coastline at Åsgårdstrand.
Edvard Munch Biography
Born in Loten, Hedmark, on December 12, 1863, Edvard Munch is considered by many to be the greatest of the Norwegian painters, having a profound influence on Expressionist painting, as well as the development of Symbolism in the1890s. The second of five children born to Dr. Christian Munch and his wife Laura Catherine (Bjølstad), Munch’s childhood was marked by poor physical and mental health, both of self and of family members. The Munch lineage was Norway’s cultural aristocracy, boasting generations of prominent members of academia and clergy. The descendant of Jacob Munch (1776-1838), a well-known painter, and the brother of a distinguished historian, Christian Munch was a military physician and a deeply religious man. Unfortunately, the family tree also carried a susceptibility to tuberculosis, bronchitis and mental illness.
Shortly after the birth of Edvard, Dr. Munch moved his wife and two children, Sophie and Edvard, from Loten to Akershus in 1864, where siblings Peter, Laura, and Inger were born in 1865, 1867, and 1868, respectively. (At that time, Oslo was known as Christiania; the name was changed to Kristiania in 1877, then to its present name in 1925.) Weakened by the birth of her fifth child, Edvard’s mother died from tuberculosis in 1868, when he was only five years old. Karen Bjølstad, Edvard’s aunt, took on the duties of raising the children; and in 1875, the family moved to Grünerløkka, renting a flat amid the industrial workers and civil servants. Dr. Munch attempted to increase his modest military income by establishing himself in private practice in this new suburb; however, the family continued to be economically challenged due to his soft-heartedness toward patients who were unable to pay, coupled with a poor business sense.
In 1877, Edvard’s older sister Sophie also succumbed to tuberculosis at the age of 15. His younger sister, Laura, was diagnosed with mental illness at an early age. The pervasive infirmities of the children and the loss of both his wife and daughter plunged Dr. Munch into episodes of depression and violent temper, accompanied by the belief that the illnesses and deaths were punishments inflicted upon the family by God. In 1878, Munch enrolled at the Technical College, where he studied mathematics and physics. His talent in technical drawing propelled him into the field of engineering; but in 1880, failing health forced him to leave school. It was at this time that he began to pursue painting. In 1881, Munch was admitted to the Royal Schoool of Art and Design in Kristiania, the teachings of which were primarily rooted in Realism; and it was here he studied sculpture under the direction of Julius Middlethun.
Edvard Munch Career
He experimented with many styles during the early years of his career. He dabbled in Naturalism and Impressionism and painted several portraits and nudes. He completed his painting ‘The Sick Child’ in 1886, symbolically representing his emotions at the time of his sister’s death some years ago. In 1889, he traveled to France and lived there for the next three years. During this period he painted a series of paintings called the “Frieze of Life”, which encompassed 22 works for a Berlin exhibition. The collection consisted of paintings such as “Despair”, “Melancholy”, “Anxiety”, “Jealousy”, and most importantly, “The Scream”, which became one of his best-known paintings. This collection proved to be a great success and established him as a popular artist. With time he grew extremely famous and his financial situation also improved considerably. However, his personal demons continued to haunt him. He became an alcoholic and his mental problems became more severe. This also began to affect his career as an artist. During the 1900s, his drinking problem spiraled out of control and he began to suffer from hallucinations. In order to reclaim his life, he underwent therapy for a few months and recovered well. He returned to painting and re-established his reputation. Once again his career stabilized and his financial position improved. He eventually moved to a country house in Norway where he spent his later years in solitude. He continued painting up to his death, often depicting his physical ailments in his later works.
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