Though it is difficult to determine when exactly Edvard Munch was first exposed to the writings of Friedrich Nietzsche, one cannot help but think of Existential philosophy’s mustachioed poster boy when considering the Norwegian painter’s work. As with Nietzsche, Munch’s public legacy is colored by an emphasis on his psychological torments and eventual nervous breakdown. His acutely personal exploration of formidable themes such as angst, vulnerability, sin, and alienation only amplify the connection.
Articles by William Harrison
All accounts suggest that the Italian painter Giorgio Morandi (1890-1964) enjoyed a life of uninterrupted calm and isolation. Introverted by nature, Morandi spent his entire lifetime in Bologna, in the same apartment no less, and was dubbed il Monaco due to his almost monastic reclusiveness. He tended to paint at home, either in his bedroom or an adjoining studio, committing himself almost exclusively to the natura morta, or still life.
Widely recognized in Europe during his lifetime and engulfed by obscurity for decades thereafter, today the Danish painter Vilhelm Hammershøi (1864-1916) is primarily considered to be a “painter of tranquil rooms.” “Interior in Strandgade, Sunlight on the Floor,” one of twenty-four paintings displayed in an intimate recent exhibit at New York’s Scandinavia House, is an archetypal Hammershøi work. A solitary woman hunches over a table with her back to the viewer, her identity and activity unclear. Daylight pours through a large central window, leaving a slanted, luminous grid ghosted on the floor. While the subject matter is characteristic of the period—paintings of bourgeois women and interiors were both immensely popular in 19th century Denmark—the approach is defiantly atypical.