Starry Night by Munch and Starry Night over the Rhone by Van Gogh
The Wheatfield with Reaper by Van Gogh and The haymaker by Munch
An avenue of trees by one and An avenue of trees by the other
A couple kissing in the park and A couple kissing in the park
Van Gogh’s room with bed and Munch’s room with bed
Walking round the Van Gogh and Munch exhibition in the Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam you would be forgiven for thinking that the two artists were following each other around. But for two artists who shared a strong interest in the everyday people and places in the world around them, were both quite prolific and lived similar times and even places, it is overall not that surprising that you gain a feeling of kindred spirits from the show. The curators of the exhibition have been able to draw together a number of eye catching couplets ranging from self portraits to landscapes and interiors to social activities.
Such pairing up opens a way into the less familiar work and refreshes your view of the more familiar, other works by Manet, Pissaro and Lautrec only enrich this experience further.
Living as I do in the Netherlands I am a relatively regular visitor to the two main collections of the Dutch artist’s work in the Van Gogh Museum and the Kroller Muller Museum. I’m familiar with the artist’s vibrant work and his tormented life story. It’s a life story that is there to be found in his work on occasions, but largely it’s the colour and virtuosity of his brush work that hit you most.
By contrast though, and the further you go through the Amsterdam exhibition the stronger it gets, the fear and melancholy in Munch’s work weighs heavier and heavier. Tortured faces stare out at you. The final room contains five framed prints by the Norwegian, Evening Melancholy, Death in the Sickroom, Angst, Vampire II and a version of the well known Madonna painting. A moody but powerful end to the collection that has travelled from Scandinavia.
With my art teacher’s hat on I would like my pupils to see this collection of paintings a lot. It’s all quite accessible stuff, it might help them see the perhaps slightly over familiar Van Gogh work in a slightly new light, but above all I think that maybe the older teenagers would enjoy and appreciate the moody menace in much of Munch’s work.