In 1982 Galleri Bellman opened a gallery in New York with an exhibition of 126 paintings and prints by Edvard Munch. Very close to his studio Warhol visited the exhibition on multiple occasions. After a trip to the gallery with his business manager Fred Hughes, the idea was born to use the iconic Munch images for the ‘Art from Art’ series. Galleri Bellman commissioned Warhol to make fifteen paintings and three screenprints in homage to Munch. Warhol’s printer Rupert Jasen Smith produced a number of trial proofs in a variety of different colour combinations in anticipation of the final edition. However this edition was not realised due to the closure of Galleri Bellman, leaving only a number of unique and rare trial proofs in existence, each printed in a unique combination of colours.
A hugely celebrated image, The Scream is Munch’s attempt to render man’s inner turmoil, and reflects his desire to capture the extremes of psychological experience. An existential cry for the struggle of mankind, The Scream is one of Munch’s darkest and most challenging works. Having paired down the features to a twisted skull-like contortion Munch expresses his internal feelings of utmost despair. Warhol takes The Scream, and keeping many of the significant features, emphasises the basic features to create a cartoon like-face. In this impression, lot 182, Warhol uses his genius as a colourist and removes the sombre tones, replacing them with bright clashing colours. Through the juxtaposition of pink, green and yellow, unique to this impression, Warhol has succeeded in replicating the feelings of intense angst of the original, whilst the figure stands alone in bright red to create a powerfully emotional image.
Controversial since its first view, Munch’s Madonna illustrates his preoccupation with life and death. Capturing the moment of the conception, Munch writes, ‘life is born, only to be born again and die – the act of creation in her mouth is pain – in one of the corners of her mouth sits the spectre of death – in her two lips the joy of life’1. Warhol takes the version of Munch’s monochromatic lithograph adding striking arbitrary colours, and places it beside Self-Portrait with Skeleton’s Arms. On the left we see the Madonna transformed by Warhol; surrounded by long flowing hair, she becomes an emblem of powerful femininity, on par with Warhol’s prints of Hollywood stars Liz Taylor or Marilyn Monroe. Alongside the Madonna Warhol places his take on one of Munch’s most haunting self-portraits. In lot 184, deep red colour replaces the black background of the original print, a colour that he previously used for one of his own self-portraits; the solemnity is removed yet the image is still unnerving. The use of Self-Portrait with Skeleton’s Arms reflects Warhol’s anxiety over mortality and preoccupation with death after the decease of his father at an early age.
An English violinist and lover of Munch, Eva Mudocci became the basis for Munch’s lithograph The Brooch, Eva Mudocci. Eva said of sitting for Munch, “He wanted to paint the perfect picture of me, but each time he began an oil painting he destroyed it… he had more success with the lithographs… One of these, the so-called Madonna (The Brooch) was accompanied by a note that said ‘Here is the stone that fell from my heart’”2. This serene image retains its romantic essence in Warhol’s adaptation, as seen in lot 183. Immediate in its impact Warhol creates his own 20th century interpretation of the female ideal much like he does in Madonna (lot 184). The uniqueness of this trial proof is shown through the echo of the brooch upon the face. This is the only impression where Warhol used this detail, paying tribute to Munch’s original title.
Considering the huge popularity of Munch’s work, it is not unexpected that Warhol chose to make these prints. Munch achieved the notoriety that Warhol so much desired, to the extent that his work has become part of the universal psyche. Despite being strongly recognisable as appropriations of Munch’s images, that is where the similarity ends. In the ‘Art from Art’ series Warhol removes much of the psychological emotion, instead focusing on the flat printed surface. Exploring the Duchampian notion of the ready-made, Warhol takes the works and transforms Munch’s emotionally charged pieces into images of popular culture. By doing so he reflects on Munch’s words ‘A good picture never disappears. A great idea never dies.’3
1 Edvard Munch cited in Bente Torjusen, words and images of EDVARD MUNCH, London, 1986, p. 91
2 Eva Mudocci cited in W. Stabell, Edvard munch og Eva Mudocci, Oslo, 1973, p. 217
3 Edvard Munch cited in Angela Lampe and Clément Chéroux, Edvard Munch The Modern Eye, London, 2012, p. 31
Please call 1-800-555-5555 to order a print catalog for this sale.
Online Registration to Bid is Closed for this Sale. Would you like to watch the live sale?Watch Live Sale