Madonna-Edvard Munch 1894
A late and possibly the greatest of the Symbolists, the Norwegian Edvard Munch was a major precursor of Expressionism. Visiting the National Gallery of Norway in Oslo which houses a collection of his paintings is an unsettling experience. Munch’s work possesses an neurotic intensity unparalleled in Western art and seeing them side by side you become aware of his unhealthy fascination and dread of women.

This is best seen in his 1894 painting Madonna which is a very unusual devotional painting to say the least. The pose of the Madonna is sexually provocative, her halo is a dangerous shade of red and in addition to the virgin/whore dichotomy there is the suggestion that the Mother is also a vampire. All in all a stunning glorification of decadent love.

46 thoughts on “Madonna

      1. I consider them little lessons in art history, and enjoy them all, whether or not the art is my favorite. I haven’t learned much about artists’ lives — except for Picasso bc he was friends with Gertrude Stein.

        Liked by 1 person

      1. well normal reaction since he was obsessed with death. i have an idea t have a munch like woman in a painting I am planning about Lot’s wife looking back at Sodom.

        Liked by 1 person

  1. Mr. Cake, don’t you think a bit of neurosis can be quite beneficial to an artist? Excellent write up on Munch, you already know that I think that this Madonna is stunning. Her face is absolutely beautiful, and the red halo, how better to suggest temptation. Red is such a wonderful color! Lovely post.
    ~ Miss Cranes

    Liked by 2 people

  2. This is indeed a beautiful and strange interpretation of the Madonna. Something that troubles me though… Regarding artists and writers and the like… Do you think we romanticize their mental illnesses? As if its an elevated state or alternative form of creativity? When in fact many of them were in anguish? I believe you are correct that happiness writes white, but I wonder how far into the dark one needs to sink to tap into that kind of creative space. And I wonder if given the chance they’d trade some of that neurosis for a little peace. What do you think?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yes we do romanticise artists mental illness. As to whether they would trade talent for a bit of peace, I think that depends on the artist, some would and some wouldn’t. Munch view of women is also a cultural one that was popular at the time, most of the Symbolists held the view that women were deadly, also Strindberg in his preface to Miss Julia is startling in his misogyny. Great dramatist though.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Deadly creatures luring men into sin.

        Back to the artists… What a quandary: to have the gift of art whose inspiration comes from the darkest corners of one’s mind. Sacrifice one and while you may have peace, you have lost your purpose in life. Lose your purpose in life, lose what ever contentment you may have attained. And I suppose too, its only in this day and age that the demons can be conquered chemically. They really had no choice but to suffer through.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I’ll investigate. This is a subject that intrigues me. That fine line between genius and madness. Or really maybe not a line at all.

        I wonder though, with treatment options how (name someone) would have fared in managing mental illness. Dear Ivor Gurney the poet, suffering with depression and bipolar disorder for example. And often they died young, self medicated with drugs and alcohol (oh that was weird… my autocorrect kept trying to change alcohol to alchemy) Anyway…

        Liked by 1 person

    2. interesting I say that art is very much a form of expression. It’s a voice for one’s curiosity. I love to paint well all the things I love and I feel at my bet when I paint. Yes I see what your saying and what a fascinating way of looking at it. So much to say here. They poured their heart on canvas and that’s what makes for great art. I love the notion that art can be what you want it be. All the best people are bonkers. I love at this painting and I see a beautiful woman who represents the saint and the not saint. She’s bare passionate and the light surrounding her heart and middle well to me that’s life and love. The way the fabric wraps around her is a graceful rhythm.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I have a different take on this, I can see why it would appear to be modern and like Hammer Horror but when I look at it, I see an ugliness, the swirl of confusion, the grain in the face, there is something very disquieting here, and the total absence of real color aside the red, very Madonna. Either way first time I saw this I liked it but it is not a painting I find beautiful or appealing more thought-provoking. You always remind me of things or teach me new things, all in all you have a value that is incomparable because you know what is important and what is not.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well I try. Seeing all the Munchs together was a strange experience, powerful and the sickness and misogyny radiated out. A truly great artist though beauty has little to do with, more the skull beneath the skin which is truth.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I love at this painting and I see a beautiful woman who represents the saint and the not saint. She’s bare passionate and the light surrounding her heart and middle well to me that’s life and love. The way the fabric wraps around here is a graceful rhythm. Not sure but maybe the colors is a clear contrast to all of this maybe eluding to the power of a women…..thanks for the lesson!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. One of my favourite paintings of Munch. Looking forward to the opening of the new Munch museum in Oslo. The museum will be much bigger, and they don’t have to hide most of his paintings in an archive.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s