The Sun, Edvard Munch (1909)

The greatest achievement of modern mural painting /

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The Sun is perhaps the greatest achievement of modern mural painting. Symmetrically structured, it occupied the enormous front space of Oslo University’s assembly hall, dominating through size, unmitigated frontality, and power of imagery. Munch extended the sun image in this mural from a partial to an embracing role, having first proposed a Nietzschean Mountain of Man that rose toward a sun-covered sky. Upon further reflection, and in compliance with advice from friends, he abandoned the problematical symbol to retain the sun image in pure, intense, and masculine dominance.

Illuminated by the sunrays are the water of the ocean, the bare rocks of a Northern landscape, and a slim strip of verdant green that separated land and sea. A clean, straight horizon line divides the waters from sky. The great sun is all-pervasive, shinning from the heavens upon land and sea, its rays reaching out to all eternity. Inhuman itself, it is the source of all life.

Edvard Munch (12 December 1863 – 23 January 1944) was a Norwegian painter and printmaker whose intensely evocative treatment of psychological themes built upon some of the main tenets of late 19th-century Symbolism and greatly influenced German Expressionism in the early 20th century. One of his most well-known works is The Scream of 1893. A majority of the works which Edvard Munch created, were referred to as the style known as symbolism. This is mainly because of the fact that the the paintings he made focused on the internal view of the objects, as opposed to the exterior, and what the eye could see. Symbolist painters believed that art should reflect an emotion or idea rather than represent the natural world in the objective, quasi-scientific manner embodied by Realism and Impressionism. In painting, Symbolism represents a synthesis of form and feeling, of reality and the artist’s inner subjectivity.  Many of Munch’s works depict life and death scenes, love and terror, and the feeling of loneliness was often a feeling which viewers would note that his work patterns focused on. These emotions were depicted by the contrasting lines, the darker colors, blocks of color, somber tones, and a concise and exaggerated form, which depicted the darker side of the art which he was designing. Munch is often and rightly compared with Van Gogh, who was one of the first artists to paint what the French artist called “the mysterious centers of the mind“.

But perhaps a more overreaching influence was Sigmund Freud, a very close contemporary. Freud explained much human behavior by relating it to childhood experiences. Munch saw his mother die of tuberculosis when he was 5, and his sister Sophie die of the same disease when he was 14. Munch gives the By the Death Bed and Death in the Sickroom a universal cast by not specifically depicting what he had witnessed. Several versions of The Sick Child are surely his sister.

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