Edvard Munch (1863-1944) the brooding Norwegian artist whose evocative treatment of psychological themes has become the hallmark of 20th century art (his fin-de-siècle painting “The Scream” is currently at the MoMA in New York), was perhaps as internal and problematic as an artist can get. Andy Warhol (1928-1987) on the contrary, made no attempt to conceal that he was all about surface, and at one time even stated: “I love plastic. I want to be plastic.”
Watch images from the exhibition: Munch, Warhol and the multiple image
An unlikely pair? Maybe not. At the press opening of the new exhibition “Munch/Warhol” at Scandinavia House in New York City, Patricia G. Berman, Professor of art history at Wellesley College and the University of Oslo, as well as the exhibition’s co-curator, explained:
“Munch and Warhol were both prolific and experimental printmakers. They were both masters of self-invention, and they were both savvy businessmen. This exhibition finds many similarities in the ways in which the two artists built their careers by carefully controlling their public personas and artistic production.”
Munch had a habit of repeating motifs over and over, and this helped him get through dry periods, when he needed money, and was a strategy he used to reassure his audience as he experimented with new styles.
Pop icon Andy Warhol had visited Oslo and seen Munch’s dark lithographs in person, when in the 1980’s he was approached by art dealers and patrons to make prints based on the Norwegian artist’s works. Warhol chose four main subjects: “The Scream”, “The Madonna”, “Self-Portrait”, and “The Brooch. Eva Mudocci”. In some cases Warhol would cut out a not always good printed image of a piece by Munch (perhaps from a catalogue), to have it blown up and used as a base for his own work. Together with his master printer Rupert Jasen Smith, Warhol created trial proofs, canny and analytical, which for some reason were never published. Thus they exist only in their current form: As singular versions of multiple copies.

In this exhibition, with 32 prints on view, we as viewers, also learn something about the craft of printmaking. We may ask ourselves: “What is original? What is copy? And does it really matter?” In some of Munch’s works, you can see his own delicate hand-tinting (he used washi, or Japan paper for color) and if we shift our gaze, we will see the more modern silkscreen techniques used by Warhol.


It feels liberating to see these so iconic Munch prints blown up to poster-sized screens in the typical Warhol fashion. Almost as a relief of sorts. As if finally another artist has been able to let Munch’s dark demons out of their bondage. Here is, in bright red, cobalt blue, turquoise, magenta and highlighter pink, Munch’s self-portrait, as beautiful as it ever was. And his “The Brooch.Eva Mudocci”, extravagant in blue and marigold – big, bold, and somehow so very right.
“These works by Warhol are unknown even among his most ardent fans,” said Berman. “This is the first time these works are shown together in the US.”

In the third gallery of the exhibition there is a series of Warhol’s takes on “The Scream”, drenched in fluorescent color. For an Edvard Munch fan in New York City, this series alone should not be missed, especially since the original painting of “The Scream” can be seen at MoMa, easily reached within walking distance from Scandinavia House.

2013 marks the 150th anniversary of Munch’s birth in the village of Ådalsbruk in Norway. “Munch/Warhol” is part of “Munch 150”, an international celebration of Munch’s birth and the only “Munch 150” project in the U.S..
“This exhibition,” noted Edward P. Gallagher, President of the American Scandinavian Foundation, “is perfectly timed to honor Norway’s Edvard Munch, an artist whose paintings were first displayed in this country in ‘Scandinavian Art Exhibition of 1912’, a landmark exhibition organized by The American Scandinavian Foundation. It’s gratifying to see the Foundation continue to contribute to the appreciation of Munch more than a century later.”

“Munch/Warhol” will be on display at Scandinavia House until July 27, and the foundation also pays tribute to Munch in other ways.
For more information: www.scandinaviahouse.org