DC’s National Gallery of Art opens “Edvard Munch: Master Prints” July 31. Munch’s artworks have set the two highest prices ever paid for prints.
The exhibition opens only a couple of weeks after a Munch print “Madonna” set the world’s second-highest auction price ever paid for a print when it sold at Bonhams in London for 1,252,000 pounds (more than $1,923,000).
Bonhams told me that a buyer in the US bought the controversial hand-colored print. The bare-breasted Madonna figure is surrounded by a blood red border with sperm, and a frowning fetus. The model was Munch’s mistress, Dagny Juel, who was shot to death at age 33 by another lover in a Tbilisi hotel, Bonhams said.
The other top price was for another Munch image, “Vampire II”, which sold for more than $2 million in Oslo in 2007, at the height of the market.
Munch’s most famous work by far is “The Scream”, even before two versions of the painting were stolen and eventually returned. One painting of “The Scream” was taken from the Norway Museum, and the other from Norway’s Munch Museum.
The 2004 Munch Museum theft is ranked one of the “FBI Top Ten Art Crimes”. Two armed, masked thieves stole “The Scream” and one of Munch’s (other) “Madonna” images. Norwegian police recovered the works in 2006.
Back to the near future: the National Gallery’s (NGA) exhibition will present almost 60 of the Norwegian master’s most important prints, including one print of “The Scream”, and several printings of “Madonna”. They offer haunting images of love, jealousy, alienation, and death.
The deaths of Munch’s mother and sister when he was a child, his own close brush with death at age 13, and his intense love affairs had a profound effect on his work.
The works will feature side-by-side comparisons of related prints, revealing how Munch changed a particular image over time in terms of color, line, texture, and pictorial detail, the museum explained. “His persistent experimentation and virtuosic handling of woodcut, lithography, and intaglio enabled him to vary the meaning of individual impressions as well as the form.”
The master prints are selected from the Gallery’s holdings, and from two exceptional private collections: the Epstein Family Collection and the Catherine Woodard and Nelson Blitz Jr. Collection.
The Munch exhibition, organized by the National Gallery, will be on view through October 31.
In recognition of the exhibition, the Embassy of Norway is presenting “Norway Comes to Washington”, a cultural festival celebrating Norwegian visual art, design, music, opera, film, and literature, from now through December. For the calendar of events, click here.
Several of the festival events will take place at the National Gallery. All NGA programs are free, with admission on a first-come, first-served basis.
These include several concerts featuring Norwegian performers and compositions. As part of the NGA’s “Jazz in the Garden” concert series, Norwegian jazz guitarist Bjorn Solli will perform on August 6, and the Carsten Boe Trio, a Django jazz band from Oslo, will perform on August 13. Concerts are from 5:30 to 8:00 p.m. in the NGA’s Sculpture Garden.
Other Norwegian performers will be included in the NGA’s regular Sunday evening concert series when it resumes in October.
The Gallery, in association with the Norwegian Film Institute, will present two series of Norwegian films. During September, “Edith Carlmar: Norwegian Original” will feature four films by the prolific director. During October, “Figures in a Landscape: Norway and the Cinema” will explore a range of important Norwegian films.
For more info: National Gallery of Art, www.nga.gov, East Building, Mezzanine, National Mall, Constitution Avenue between 3rd and 7th Streets, NW, Washington, DC, 202-737-4215. Visitor Information. Royal Norwegian Embassy, www.norway.org, 2720 34th Street, NW, Washington, DC, 202-333-6000. “Norway Comes to Washington” calendar of events.