Norwegian society was never indifferent to the art of Edvard Munch (1863-1944). Today, it is hard at work to make good on the brutal insults it almost collectively let rain on its most important artist until quite late in his life.
In spite of this, Munch donated all of the art – his “children” – still in his possession to the city of Oslo. And while waiting for its new and slightly controversial building to be completed next to the Oslo Opera, The Munch Museum has made heartening and pioneering efforts at digitizing everything Munch, including its vast collection of letters and writings.
Now, it has made some 7,600 of Edvard Munch’s drawings available online, the Museum’s own holdings as well as drawings from other public and private collections. The Munch Museum’s staff photographers digitally photographed all the drawings.
The wonderful online magazine Hyperallergic covers the story with enthusiasm, and has interviewed senior curator Magne Bruteig about the logistical feat, quoting him:
“The fact that the multitude of drawings made a paper edition practically impossible, and an online publication the obvious choice, also made it possible to reach a much wider audience. […]In addition to appealing to art lovers of all kinds, it is also our hope that scholars around the world may take a greater interest in this part of Munch’s artistic output, so that his drawing may receive more art historical attention.”
The drawings date from 1873, when Edvard Munch was ten, to the year before his death in 1943. “He drew incessantly and almost anywhere,” says Stein Olav Henrichsen, the Munch Museum’s director, to The Art Newspaper. The paper also interviews Philip Hook, the senior Impressionist and Modern art specialist at Sotheby’s, which sold the 1895 pastel version of The Scream for almost $120m in 2012:
“Munch’s fame rests disproportionately on the global familiarity of a single image. Opening up access to the less well-known parts of his oeuvre is important for a fuller understanding of this remarkable artist.”
Says the Munch Museum itself about the collections part in the artist’s life:
Drawings are the cornerstone of Munch’s art. He would draw constantly and almost everywhere he went. Munch drew family and friends, children and workers, the Bourgeoisie and the Bohemians, mermaids and Madonnas. He saved almost everything, from simple sketches to complex motifs. Using the digital catalogue, you can get to know Munch as a draftsman without leaving the comfort of your own home.
The Scream 1893