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Through June 13 (closed Tuesday & Wednesday)
In 2007, Neue Galerie New York presented “Van Gogh and Expressionism,” which examined the influence Dutch artist Vincent van Gogh had on German and Austrian Expressionism. Now the curator of that exhibit, Dr. Jill Lloyd, has teamed up with Dr. Reinhold Heller for a fascinating follow-up, “Munch and Expressionism,” creating a compelling back-and-forth dialogue between works by Norwegian painter Edvard Munch (1863-1944) with such German artists as Max Beckmann, Erich Heckel, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Gabriele Münter, and Emile Nolde and such Austrian artists as Richard Gerstl, Oskar Kokoschka, and Egon Schiele. “The radical qualities of Edvard Munch’s work — his extreme originality and inventiveness — have frequently led to him being linked to the art of the future,” Dr. Lloyd writes in her catalog essay “Edvard Munch and the Expressionists: Influence and Affinity.” She adds, “But whereas van Gogh . . . is justly deemed a precursor or ‘father’ of Expressionism, Munch, by contrast, both inspired and participated in the movement.” The splendidly curated exhibition groups a pair of Munch self-portraits, 1906’s “Self-Portrait with a Bottle of Wine” and 1923-24’s “The Night Wanderer,” with Beckmann’s 1938 “Self-Portrait with Horn” and Gerstl’s 1907 “Self-Portrait in Front of a Stove,” as if the men have come together for a chat. Munch landscapes “Winter, Elgersburg” and “White Night” feel right at home with Münter’s “The Blue Gable” and Karl Schmidt-Rottluff’s “Footpath,” in both color and abstraction. Munch’s glorious “Puberty,” seen in both an 1894 drawing and an exciting 1914-16 oil painting, takes on added meaning alongside Heckel’s “Standing Child”; the apparent communication continues through Heckel’s “Bathers in a Pond” and a quartet of bathing paintings by Munch, including the bold, extraordinary “Standing Nude Against Blue Background.”
A small room is dedicated to Munch’s most iconic work, “The Scream,” with its spectacular color palette and powerful emotion. The 1895 favorite is joined by several print editions as well as a trio of self-portraits by Schiele and Heckel’s woodcut “Man in the Forest.” Other standout groupings include Munch’s “Mountain Road” with Kirchner’s “Women on Potsdamer Platz,” Munch’s “The Book Family” with Kirchner’s “Street, Dresden, 1908,” and Munch’s “Two Human Beings (The Lonely Ones)” with Schiele’s “Man and Woman I (Lovers I).” An exploration of Munch’s printmaking methods is another aspect of this show, with multiple woodcuts of “Towards the Forest II,” “Angst,” “The Kiss,” “Evening. Melancholy,” “Old Fisherman,” and “Madonna,” echoed by Nolde’s “Young Danish Woman,” Hermann Max Pechstein’s “Lovers,” and Kirchner’s “Head of a Sick Man.” However, the dialogue occurred only in their art and not in person. “There is plenty of evidence that the Brücke artists sought out Munch, inviting him, for example, to send work to their group exhibitions in 1906, 1908, and 1909, although Munch carefully sidestepped these overtures,” Dr. Lloyd notes in her essay. “Nolde and the Brücke artists apparently confronted a brick wall when they tried to enlist Munch to their cause, despite his stated admiration for their work.” Even if these artists from Norway, Germany, and Austria never broke bread together or sat down and discussed art, this exhibit creates quite an intriguing visual conversation between them.