Kendra Steiner Editions

June 18, 2019

the 1980’s Warhol/Munch series

Filed under: Uncategorized — kendrasteinereditions @ 6:56 pm

warhol munch louisiana poster

Though Andy Warhol passed away 30+ years ago, his body of work is so large and so many areas of it remain little-known that undoubtedly for the lifetimes of all reading this post there will be no shortage of deep dives into the Warhol vaults, bringing focus and visibility to some of the many series of works he continued to create up to the time of his passing in 1987. I tend to find the close examinations of limited numbers of thematically related works to be a fruitful approach when it comes to study and appreciation and enjoyment of Warhol’s work. He left us, posterity, an amazing amount of work, and I would encourage anyone with a taste for Warhol to wake up and start exploring and savoring the work. Perhaps the easiest way to do that is through the many specialized oversized books devoted to specific-focus exhibitions, more often than not outside the United States. Regular perusal of the sale lists of online art-book dealers or Ebay can turn up many obscure gems….and on occasion multiple copies of such books will find their way into the remaindered-books stream and show up at Half-Price Books (I’ve written about some of those here on the KSE blog). They usually don’t last long, and six months or a year later, one sees them going up significantly in price.

I generally have at any particular time one or two such books in my reading-and-study rotation, and upon return from my writing vacation in East Texas and SW Louisiana last week, I went through my Warhol collection to dig out a few to enjoy here in the early Summer and found that I own TWO books devoted to Warhol’s 1980’s series of re-imaginings of the art of Edvard Munch.

They are MUNCH/WARHOL AND THE MULTIPLE IMAGE by Patricia C. Berman and Pari Stave, published in 2013 to accompany a New York exhibition at Scandinavia House: The Nordic Center in America, New York (see book pictured below)

and WARHOL AFTER MUNCH edited by Michael Juul Holm and Henriette Dedichen, published by the legendary Louisiana Museum of Art in Denmark to accompany an exhibition of the same name (the cover to this book is similar to the exhibition poster, at the top of this post).

munch warhol multiple image book

If I may quote from a definitive account of the genesis of this series, from the Christie’s sale of some of the pieces, “In late 1982, on one of his daily amblings distributing copies of Interview magazine around Manhattan, Andy Warhol (1928 –1987) visited Galleri Bellman on 57th Street. The gallery had recently opened a show of 126 paintings and prints by Edvard Munch (1863–1944), including an impression of The Scream, the iconic 1895 lithograph on loan from the Munch Museum in Oslo….Surprised at how prolific Munch was as a printmaker, he professed at the time to being more impressed by his prints than his paintings. Warhol returned to the Bellman exhibit several times, eventually securing a commission to paint what became known as the After Munch series: The Scream, Eva Mudocci and Self Portrait juxtaposed with Madonna. In 1983 five canvases of each — a total of 15 works — were commissioned….‘Warhol came to this imagery as a function of his respect for Munch, not only as an artist, but as a printmaker,’ says Richard Lloyd, International Head of Prints and Multiples at Christie’s. ‘There’s a long tradition of artists being very invested in Munch’s creative output in this medium. He was not only incredibly prolific, he was also very technologically innovative and experimental, which is something Warhol really responded to.’ The following year, agreement was reached on a related project to create screen-printed versions of each of these motifs. The original idea was to issue 60 portfolios, each containing the three compositions. Warhol began work on the prints by ordering photographs and transparencies of the originals to be enlarged. These were then used as the basis of tracings, whereby he recreated the structure with bold graphite lines. The Pop artist worked with master printer Rupert Jasen Smith, who used stencils to add blocks of colour, producing a series of unique colour versions (Warhol was to select the most successful colour combinations for the edition). The combinations were extremely varied, ranging from two colours to half a dozen or more, from sombre browns and blacks to neon pinks and lime greens. In some the figure is in sharp relief against a muted background; in others the figure is almost invisible, completely subsumed by the landscape.
Unfortunately, disagreements between the directors of Galleri Bellman meant the project was cancelled. The total number of unique Munch screen-prints Andy Warhol produced is unknown, Lloyd says, but it is thought to be small.” 

While Warhol certainly had a history of appropriating and then re-interpreting images from classic art, he was also very much aware of artists whose work involved the kind of series repetition and variation that was so central to his own aesthetic. It’s no surprise that he re-interpreted the works of Giorgio de Chirico, who often re-visited his own works in later life the way a 1950’s rock and roll artist would re-record his early hits decades later for budget labels. Also, Warhol’s Last Supper paintings, one of his last major series projects, which were based on cheap and inexact reproductions of Leonard DaVinci’s original image.

Edvard Munch produced multiple variations on his own iconic images via prints and woodcuts, which is one reason that people who may know little about classic art recognize Munch’s “The Scream”–it’s been endlessly reprinted, and that replication began with Munch himself. That aspect of the Norwegian artist surely appealed to Warhol, who probably felt a kindred spirit, allowing him to bring his patented appropriation-and-reimagining aesthetic to well-known works that in their new Warhol versions would no doubt have wide appeal. The WARHOL AFTER MUNCH book explains the repetition with variation, re-coloring, etc. that Munch himself did later in his career with his earlier images (he even wondered if he had done too much of that and if he was cheapening the value of his work by doing it, but then remembered how the technique was spreading his work and fame far and wide), in detail, and it’s uncanny how such practices foreshadow Warhol’s technique.

denmark-2010

Warhol chose four images from Munch–“Madonna,” “The Brooch, Eva Mudocci,” “The Scream,” and “Self-Portrait” (themselves from lithographs), with “Madonna” and “Self-Portrait” being combined by Warhol into one image. According to Patricia G. Berman, “Warhol painted fifteen versions of Munch’s printed motifs onto canvas, and he produced upwards of thirty trial proofs of graphic versions (it is not altogether clear how many were printed). The prints were never issued as an edition.” The Louisiana book includes SIXTEEN Warhol variations on the Madonna/Self-Portrait image, multiple versions of the others, close-up visual analyses of Warhol’s technique in producing the images, an analysis of the color schemes used in the works, etc. With the exhaustive coverage of Munch’s variations on the images, and then Warhol’s variations on Munch’s variations, the readers can get a feeling of dizziness  and feel like they are looking at a slightly-warped mirror image of another slightly-warped mirror image of another slightly-warped mirror image, all illuminated by colored stage lighting that switches randomly every five seconds.

Andy-Warhol-Eva-Mudocci-After-Munch-1984.-©-Haugar-Vestfold-Kunstmuseum

It’s a unique sensation, and the works themselves are intoxicating via the large and crisp reproductions found in these two books. And let’s not forget the deep and insightful commentaries from a number of disciplines and perspectives found in both books.

Andy-Warhol-Foundation-for-the-Visual-Arts-Photo-Sparebankstiftelsen-DNB

Both books are highly recommended. For those who do not feel like buying art books, all  you need to do is Google the names MUNCH/WARHOL, and you can see many of the images online, a number of them in resolutions high enough that you can close-up on sections of the pieces for study.

Below you can find links to two articles related to exhibitions of the Warhol/Munch prints, which can provide you enough background and basic info to provide the flavor of the project…and perhaps inspire you to dig deeper.

Lux Magazine on the Oslo Exhibition at the Munch Museum

Hyperallergic on Munch and Warhol an Unlikely Pair

Also, you’ll want to read a definitive piece on the backstory and the genesis of the series in this piece accompanying the sale of some of the prints at Christie’s (I quoted extensively from this above).

Christies sale of Warhol After Munch prints

Warhol and Munch continue to work their magic in new century through both their bodies of works and their techniques that open doors which today’s aestheticians desire to walk through and raise questions that today’s art audience want to ponder. Their interaction through this series of works is something that many reading this will find quite worthwhile, providing a lot of food for thought….and beautiful, haunting pieces to enjoy.

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