MUNCH: In His Own Words

Poul Erik Tojner, Author, Ian Lukins, Translator, Jennifer Lloyd, Translator MUNCH: In His Own WordsPoul E $65 (224p) ISBN 978-3-7913-2494-4

Director of the well-known Louisiana Museum of Modern Art outside Copenhagen, Danish art and architecture critic Tojner (Knud Holscher: Architect and Industrial Designer) has assembled a selection of texts by Norwegian modernist Edvard Munch (1863–1944), whose most famous work is The Scream. Visually, the book is up to Prestel's usual standard, with images of Munch's tortured men and women coming through sharply and clearly. But while chapters like "Munch and His Own Words," "The Nature of Art, and that of the Artist," and "Munch and Other People" have helpful short prefaces by Tojner, they present insurmountable problems that should make any librarian or art fan think twice. The translators, barely credited in minuscule print on the copyright page, make an impossible hash of the text: "Tulla Larsen and Munch travel round Europe together or on each other's tail" is just one example of poor idiom control. The meaning of Tojner pronouncements like "When Munch paints houses, they have faces; when he paints people, their bodies are tattooed with points of contact with the surrounding world" seems hopelessly obscure. And there are clumsy and facile paradoxes that seem at least partly the author's doing, as when Munch is characterized as painting his subjects "at exactly the right moment, capturing a kind of taciturn eloquence." Munch was an ill-tempered misanthrope whose writings are unlikely to attract the kind of sympathy inspired by Van Gogh's letters, but when the ever-anguished artist is allowed to speak for himself, the results can have a certain nasty, brusque horse sense, such as this discussion with a country neighbor: " 'Why don't you paint small paintings that can be sold, like everybody else,' asks my milkman. Look after your cows, I said. You know something about that." (May)

Reviewed on: 04/09/2001
Release date: 04/01/2001
Paperback - 224 pages - 978-3-7913-2883-6
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