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PRINT January 1966

Edvard Munch

RARELY HAS THE QUESTION of content in the art of the past hundred years been more vividly raised than at the retrospective exhibition of the works of Edvard Munch (1863–1944) at the Guggenheim Museum in New York from October 1965 to January 1966. From the earliest painting in the show—the somberly naturalistic portrait of his sister Inger of 1884—to the latest—Between Clock and Bed: Self-Portrait of 1940–42, with the old man himself pinioned into place between time and death—Munch’s long and extremely uneven career is marked by an unending attempt to work out suitable pictorial equivalents for intensely-experienced emotions or obsessive ideas.

After Manet, the painter of ideas was almost inevitably doomed to be a literary painter: that is to say, someone illustrating rather than creating. In fact, the very notion of “literary painting” as a derogatory term, one of the cardinal sins of

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