Rare Munch exhibit opens at Southern

Edvard Munch as shown in one of his self-portraits

Edvard Munch as shown in one of his self-portraits

Art is one of the largest forms of expression. Pieces such as “The Scream” by Edvard Munch portray many emotions.

Its behind-the-scenes artist, including a variety of self portraits, has been chosen for an exhibit opening next week at Missouri Southern.

Dr. Patricia Berman, Theodora L. and Stanley H. Fedlberg Professor of Art at Wellesley College in Massachusetts, will host the Edvard Munch Photography Exhibit. 

Presenting partners for the showing include the Katherine Hyde Charitable Trust as well as the Missouri Arts Council, the American-Scandinavian Foundation in New York City, and the Munch Museum in Oslo, Norway.

Frank Pishkur, art department head, said Berman has been a visiting scholar in Oslo for approximately five years. She has been working with, and showcasing the Munch Museum during her stay in Norway.

“Dr. Thor Mednick gave access to the artwork,” explained Christine Bentley, director of the Spiva Art Gallery at Missouri Southern. “He knew the curator of the show and arranged for us to have the show come to Joplin. 

“It came to us from New York City from the Scandinavian House.”

Bentley said the showing is unique, because of Munch’s experimentations with photography.

 “A lot of artists at the time were experimenting with photography and film,” Bentley said. “He pushed a little further because he was a little bit bolder with playing with the composition, playing with light, expression and the exposure. 

“The headline has been that he was one of the first artists to do the ‘selfie’ so he did a lot of self portraits and even his painting process is certainly expressionistic.”

At the time of Munch’s work, Bentley said photography was still making a name for itself as an art form, instead of just being used for documenting life. 

“He used photography as an expression of art,” said Bentley.

More about the artist

Munch was born in Loieten, Norway — now known as Oslo — in 1863, and is well-known for his emotionally-filled paintings and graphics. 

Munch experienced trauma at a very young age, when his mother and sister died from tuberculosis. 

The son of a military doctor who practiced Christianity with the utmost determination, scholars indicate Munch often viewed his life as being dominated by the “twin black angels of insanity and disease.”

At the age of 17, Munch began his art career. One of his best known works is The Scream, created in 1893. 

“He’s one of those few artists throughout the course of history who’s made an iconic piece of artwork,” Pishkur said. “His ‘Scream’ is known by people who don’t know anything about art. They don’t know maybe the name of the guy who made it, but they recognize that painting.

“I think a lot respond to that piece. It speaks to our generations. The hecticness of city life, the overwhelming pressures and stresses people have during everyday life.”

This is only the second time Munch’s photography is being shown, in its entirety, in the United States. The show travels to Missouri Southern via New York City. 

“Munch is one of those artists who worked in a lot of different areas and did a lot of different things,” Pishkur said. “He’s got a huge amount of works, so they’re always cataloging seeing what they have. They just catalogued every drawing he ever did and that is now available on the Internet. I think that took years and years to put together.”

Pishkur said members of the art department have traveled to Scandinavia, basing out of Sweden for the last 25 years or so.

“Every summer we lead a five-week study abroad trip and one of the stops is always Oslo,” Pishkur said. “One of the places you go to when you’re in Oslo is the Munch Museum. That’s the seminal part of the trip, you can’t escape Munch’s influence. 

“He’s Norway’s most famous painter.”

If You Go

The Experimental Self: Edvard Munch’s Photography begins with a lecture from Berman at 2 p.m., Friday, Sept. 14, followed by reception from 3 to 5 p.m. in the Spiva Art Gallery, on the campus of Missouri Southern.

Admission is free and open to the public. Munch’s artwork will also be available for viewing from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., daily, Monday, Sept. 10 to Friday, Oct. 19.