Andy Warhol, the aloof purveyor of consumerism and celebrity, found seemingly unlikely inspiration in the graphic work of Symbolist pioneer Edvard Munch. He first encountered Munch’s prints during a 1973 tour of Oslo, where he developed an affinity for the painter-printmaker’s experimental woodcuts and lithographs at the National Gallery and Munch Museet. The two artists reunited in New York a decade later when Warhol fatefully happened upon a Munch retrospective at Galleri Bellman. Of the 126 paintings and graphic works on view at Bellman, Warhol was especially captivated by Munch’s inventive prints. He returned to the exhibition to pore over them repeatedly before the gallery commissioned him to paint 15 canvases inspired by the artist, known as the After Munch series. Warhol chose to emulate four of Munch’s best known lithographs: The Scream, The Brooch. Eva Mudocci, Madonna, and Self-Portrait. When the gallery then proposed that he collaborate with the illustrious printer Rupert Jasen Smith to create 60 screenprint portfolios in a similar Pop-infused vein, Warhol seized the opportunity to re-visit his favourite Munch subjects.
The Marilyn of her time, Munch’s celebrity muse Eva Mudocci - the enterprising English violinist - appealed to Warhol, who was similarly artistically “attracted to women who weren’t playing by the rules or shackled by society” (Gary Needham quoted in: Terri White, ‘Warhol and his Women’ in: Stylist, 12 February, 2012). One concert at a time, Mudocci captured hearts across Europe – including Munch’s own. The Norwegian slaved over her likeness, Mudocci recalled: “It was [Munch’s] ambition to make the most perfect portrait of me, but whenever he began a canvas for oils, he destroyed it because he was dissatisfied with it. The lithographs were better…” (Eva Mudocci quoted in: Patricia Berman and Pari Stave, Munch/Warhol and the Multiple Image, New York, 2013, p. 22). Like Munch before him, Warhol endeavoured to stage Eva in the best light as he reimagined her as a 1980’s superstar. In the impression offered here, she is the picture of romanticised feminine beauty, swathed in a lush violet mane (Lot 183).
Printed in clean lines, the black and ochre and vibrantly stencilled impressions of Warhol's The Scream (After Munch) are truest to the Norwegian’s original work. Warhol allegedly grappled with his inner demons while completing the After Munch series, which perhaps explains his faithful rendering of Munch’s tormented subject. Recreating Munch’s existential fears seems to have given Warhol an outlet through which to explore his own; worries that also seem reflected in his contemporaneous self-portraits (Lots 181, 182).
Warhol died just two years after the After Munch project was halted in 1985. The prints were still in his hands, as Galleri Bellman closed its doors before the commission was complete. The small number of trial proofs remained in the care of his estate, and later the Andy Warhol Foundation. The following selection of screenprints, which have only been publicly showcased together at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, capture different facets of two of the 20th century’s most complex and fascinating artists, demonstrating “through repetition that there is no repetition in art.” (John Cage quoted in: Jörg Schellmann, Andy Warhol Art from Art, Cologne, 1994, p. 9)
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