Edvard Munch stolen again…

By Akrita Reyar | Last Updated: Sep 25, 2014, 17:22 PM IST

Akrita Reyar News has it that another Edvard Munch has disappeared. That makes it two thefts this year itself. A lithograph by Norway’s most famous artist titled ‘Løsrivelsen II’ (The Separation) had been picked by thieves six months back in June, but the Police had kept it is a secret considering the sensitivity of the high profile case. The Munch lithograph was the property of an Oslo art dealer and was displayed at the Kaare Berntsen gallery. The work could not be traced after the gallery moved to a new location. The case came to light after it made a quiet appearance on the list of stolen art this month. The lithograph ‘Løsrivelsen II’ shows the faces of a man and woman in opposite directions. The still brings out clearly the motion of sad parting and also suggests a history in the relationship of the man and woman.

About 10 days back, a bolder and an equally successful bid at burglary had been made for the lithograph ‘Historien’ (The History). This rare piece of art was priced about USD 3,56,000 and was snatched from the walls of the Nyborg Kunst gallery. In what seemed to be a well-planned break-in, a man wearing a baseball cap had smashed the window of the gallery and fled with the Historien in a vehicle that was waiting outside. The ‘Historien,’ which was created in 1914, is a 57 x 98 cm (22 7/16 x 38 9/16 in.) piece and shows a landscape with a man sitting under a tree with a child standing in front of him. There are many versions of the famous work, but what is unique to this stolen piece was that it was hand-coloured by Munch.

Previous works stolen Earlier as well works by Edvard Munch have been targeted regularly. There have been at least two attempts at stealing his most famous piece of art called ‘Scream’ which is worth a fortune. It first vanished from the Norwegian national museum in 1994, but was recovered soon after.

The second time, in 2004, there was a more serious attempt at larceny when the ‘Scream was robbed along with another famed work called ‘Madonna’. Two armed and masked robbers had burst into the Munch museum in broad daylight and made way with the world famous paintings. Both the paintings were safely recovered in 2006, albeit slightly damaged, from a car. Three people were convicted for the robbery. What makes ‘Scream’ particularly sought after is that it is so quintessentially Edvard Munch. The painting shows an agonized solitary figure standing on a bridge in Oslo. The red sky in the background only helps to bring out the exaggerated expression of distress. The hands firmly on the ears add to depiction of horror. Madonna, meanwhile, was an unusual attempt by Munch to depict Mother Mary, but not necessarily in her virgin avatar. In this painting too, the artist used the theme red in the background to accentuate the concept of dualism – in the particular context of love and pain. Shockingly, Mary is shown nude rather than the well robed picture that we usually come across.

About the artist Paintings were to Munch the sole opportunity of self expression and symbolism. He had once said, “We want more than a mere photograph of nature. We do not want to paint pretty pictures to be hung on drawing-room walls. We want to create, or at least lay the foundations of, an art that gives something to humanity. An art that arrests and engages. An art created of one`s innermost heart." The young Norwegian, who was once studying to become an engineer, ended up becoming one of the most famous artists in expressionism history. Munch was greatly influenced by German artists and lived in the country for many years. His life, which spanned form year 1863 to 1944, saw fairly momentous and unsettling developments both politically and personally. The World Wars, the rise of fascism and the use of technology, to heap destruction on mankind, left deep imprints on his mind. The Norwegian artist, who travelled extensively across Europe, also faced several of his own upheavals. His mother died when he was barely 5, his sister died a few years later.

His adolescence had confused him and the sexual tension gave birth to the famous work – ‘Puberty’. Among his other famous works are the ‘Sick Child’, ‘Vampire’, and the ‘Dance of Life’. Through his life, Munch had several love affairs, which were mostly instable. He painted many of his women in nude and the variations used show the turmoil of his own mind regarding his relationships. He is believed to have been in a state of sexual depression and lacking a calming anchor. He also took to drinking heavily in many low phases of his life. One understands why the art Munch created - through paintings, lithographs, sketches, wood etchings, printing – was an outburst of his tortured emotions. The cry of angst in his paintings is clear and speaks volumes of his tormented life and times. His favourite themes were death, anxiety, melancholy and love. Besides he created and an array of landscapes and some of the farm scenes that he painted were inspired by his last days, which he spent in quietude and in seclusion, on a farm in Norway. When he died, Munch bequeathed 1,000 paintings, 15,400 prints, 4,500 drawings and watercolours, and 6 sculptures to the city of Oslo. With two pieces of his art stolen this year, one can only hope that authorities will meet the same success in tracing them, as they did with the previous cases of pilferage. The only solace is that Munch doesn’t have to endure the pillage, of his expressions of pain, in his lifetime.