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Edvard Munch and Expressionism


Munch’s iconic Scream seemed to tee-up a world ready to go off the rails, filled with angst, and demoralized by WWI. Expressionism captured the emotions, trauma and cynicism of that generation with distorted, haunted, and garish works.

Complete Video Script

[100] The peace and confidence of that age was also breaking up. While technology brought progress and prosperity, it also brought the weaponry to kill millions and derail the good old days of the "fin de siècle" or end of the century. There was an underlying sense of anxiety.

[101, Edvard Munch, 1863–1944; The Scream, 1893, Munch, National Gallery, Oslo] Society's darker side was captured by a troubled Norwegian expressionist/painter, Edvard Munch. On a lonely bridge, an emaciated man claps his hands to his face…and screams. The sound swirls up in twisting lines and lurid colors, blending into the blood-red sky…we literally "see" the man's torment. By fusing the emotional intensity of the Post-Impressionists, Munch had captured the simmering anxiety in Europe over what lay ahead.

[102] Expressionism is the general term for art that captured the angst of the early 20th century. Often exploring isolation…and loneliness…its focus was on the emotional experience rather than the physical reality.

[103] When it finally ended in 1918, WWI left Europe demoralized and disillusioned. Artists — many of whom fought in the trenches — captured the horror.

[104] Expressionists expressed their trauma and cynicism with distorted scenes, haunted eyes, thick paint…simple figures with garish colors. They depicted the anguish of a world that had lost its bearings.