Scholastic Art, Sep-Oct 1996 v27 n1 p4(2).
Streets filled with shadows. (Edvard
Munch's work becomes more emotional and immediate)
In 1885, Munch went to Paris and saw for himself the new French Impressionist paintings he had heard so much about. When he went back to Norway, he did a painting of Oslos main street. The light, sunny, sparkling work on the right, Spring Day on Karl Johan, with its ordinary-looking people and dots of bright color, could have been done by Monet (mo-NAY) or Renoir (ren-WAR) or any of the other French Impressionists. A few years later, when Munch was back in Paris, he received word that his father had died. This event had a great effect on the artist and he wrote, "No longer shall I paint inter) ors with men reading and women knitting. I will paint living people who breathe and feel anf suffer and love.
Compare Evening on Karl Johan (left), done in 1892, with Munchs first painting of the street. How has the artists vision changed? In the earlier workset during the daythe viewer looks down the street. There is a feeling of depth, the buildings are far away, and the trees give a feeling of open space. The many people strolling through the scene seem calm, happy, and orderly.
Evening on Karl Johan shows the same crowded street, but seen from the opposite direction. Is the crowd in this work hap py or calm? They may be orderly for the moment, but do you feel they will stay that way for long? Dark figures with vacant, yellow, masklike faces loom toward the viewer under a dark purple night sky. The slightly tilted government buildings on either side of the street surround the scene, while their yellow windows seem to keep watch from above. The flat shapes, curving lines, and abrupt crop, ping add to the sinister feeling.
In this painting, Munch has been able to express new 20th-century feelings about modern city life. The subject of this Expressionist work is no longer a city street, but an emotion. With his leaning shapes, swiftly receding perspectives, menacing skull-like faces, and anony, mous, shadowy figures, Munch has visualized the feeling of fearthe fear of a crowd of people in a big city as the sun goes down and night comes on.
The single figure moving alone against the flow of the crowd may symbolize the artists idea of himself as an outsider. Munch described the feelings that inspired him to create this painting. He had just seen a woman he knew walking toward him in a crowd. But she walked right past him. "I felt so alone." he wrote. "I felt as if people were staring at me, all these strange faces, pale in the evening light."