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Professor Curates National Edvard Munch Exhibit

Elizabeth Prelinger

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October 8, 2010 – Edvard Munch’s versions of The Scream varied in response to life and art influences, according to Georgetown art history professor Elizabeth Prelinger, co-curator of a Munch exhibit at the National Gallery of Art.

“Munch kept all his print matrices, so that he pulled impressions from them not just in 1896 when he would have carved it for the first time,” says Prelinger, “but in 1902, in 1913, in 1925, maybe even up towards his death in 1944.”

Life as Art

The exhibit, “Edvard Munch: Master Prints,” runs through Nov. 28. Co-curated with the National Gallery’s Andrew Robison, the exhibit includes nearly 60 prints by the troubled Norwegian artist.

The never-married Munch led a troubled life his mother died when he was 5, a sister at 15, and another sister was lost to mental illness. A sickly child, he was raised by an authoritarian father who did not approve of his art.

The artist’s haunting images such as Vampire and The Lonely Ones are from the collections of the National Gallery, the Epstein Family and Catherine Woodard and Nelson Blitz Jr. They are organized by theme as well as by date, revealing variations in color, texture and mood.

Prelinger says the exhibit shows how Munch changed the prints over the years in response to life events or influences in the art world.

Constellation of Images

“As we … laid out the objects, and arranged them on the living room floor of the Epstein family home, and we were on our knees saying, ‘Well what about this tiny little piece? This one is missing the tiniest bit of wood, therefore we know it must postdate that impression,' " recalls Prelinger, who serves as Georgetown’s Keyser Family Professor of Art History and has studied Munch for the past 30 years. “And all of the sudden, the constellation of images began to make sense.”

Prelinger says the exhibit provides a new perspective on Munch’s work and a stronger experience of the ideas he was trying to depict.

Rich Themes

Almost everyone can relate to Munch’s work, she says.

“Each project that I’ve done has opened up a new aspect of an artist whom you never tire of,” Prelinger says. “His work is so rich and the themes so universal. We’ve all lost someone we care about … we’ve all pondered the issues of disease and loss, and those are  the things he captures in his work in ways that everyone can understand.”

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