Munch in London: Speech at Tate Modern
Directors of Tate
Friends of Munch
Finally – Edvard Munch has come to London. I have been looking forward so much to seeing this exhibition, "The Modern Eye”, here – at the Tate Modern. The exhibition has, as you know, been shown in Paris and Frankfurt, where it has received enormous attention with over 700,000 visitors! It will be very exciting to see how “The modern eye” will be received here in London.
To me, this exhibition really is an eye opener, as it gives us the opportunity to become acquainted with another side of Munch's art. “The Modern Eye” reflects the anguish Munch suffered throughout his life – which is visible in many of his masterpieces – but this exhibition also shows him as a modern man open to new ideas and technologies of the 20th century.
Munch travelled only once to England during his lifetime. This was nearly 100 years ago in the summer of 1913. A few sketches of Westminster Abbey are the only pieces of evidence we have.
Through a good friend, Munch met his English girlfriend Evangeline Muddock. Eva, as she was known, was a beautiful woman - and if you wonder what she looked like – well, we all know her through Munch´s famous picture “Madonna – The Brooch”.
Munch loved Eva dearly and when he had finished “The Madonna”, the legend has it that he took the big heavy lithographic stone to her apartment saying, “This is the stone that fell from my heart”. Meaning that his love for Eva was transferred directly from his heart on to the lithograph stone.
It has been said that it troubled Munch that his work was not represented in any English collections or museums. He had an exhibition in the National Gallery in 1936 and there was an offer for the fifth version of “The Sick Child” – but to Munch´s disappointment the offer did not come from an English buyer. Finally, in 1939, “The Sick Child” was given to the Tate Gallery by a longstanding Norwegian admirer and supporter of Munch, and the picture is shown here in this exhibition.
Munch had a passion for photography, film and theatre and we have seen many of his black-and-white images on display here, including snap shots of his own face. In an interview in 1930, he said, and I quote: “I have learned a lot from photography. I have an old camera with which I took many photos of myself. The results are often surprising. One day, when I am old and have nothing to do but write my autobiography, then all my self portraits will be exhibited”.
Munch also experimented with film. He was very aware that the new media offered radically different ways of telling and showing. Through his works he questioned ideas such as reproducibility, autobiography and the importance of the observer. Munch was truly modern - and this exhibition shows that he is undoubtedly one of the most avant-garde artists of the 20th century.
The commitment of Centre Pompidou, Schirn Kunsthalle and Tate Modern in presenting the exhibition “Edvard Munch: The modern eye”, is an acknowledgement of the artist´s strong international position.
Next year, we will be celebrating the 150th anniversary of Munch´s birth. There will be exhibitions at both the Munch Museum and the National Gallery in Oslo, as well as smaller exhibitions all over the country. I hope you will take the opportunity to visit Norway to see many works that have rarely been displayed before. Then you will get to know this fascinating artist even better. You are indeed most welcome.
I wish Tate Modern every success with this exhibition.