More than 300 pictures by Norwegian master Edvard Munch, most of which have not been seen in America before, will go on view Nov. 11 in the new East Building of the National Gallery of Art.
In announcing the exhibit at the National Press Club yesterday, J. Carter Brown, the Gallery's director, said the show "will, I think, blow your mind."
Munch was born in 1863 and died in 1944. His works are rarely pretty. Instead, like Goya's nightmares, or those of Francis Bacon, his pictures writhe with heartwrenching intensity. Though he spent some years in Paris, and learned much from the French, there is about his art something preculiarly Scandinavian - one thinks of Hamlet's introspection, or Henrik Ibsen's candor, or of Soren Kirkegaard's passionate despair. The themes that Munch explored - terro, anxiety, sickness, sex, and death - are more familiar to psychiatrists than to historians of art.
"Munch," said Brown, "is remarkably unknow in comparison with his French contemporaries. There are, for example, only four Munch paintings in public collections in the United States."
More than 90 per cent of the artist's work remains in Norway. The Munch Museum, Oslo, the National Gallery, Oslo, and other Norwegian insitutions have agreed to send pictures that have never left their country in the past.
The Munch show; which will be under the patronage of Crown Prince Harald and Crown Princess Sonja, will not tour; it will only be seen here.
Some 40 major paintings, among them "The Cry," "The Kiss," "Night in St. Cloud," and many pictures from the cycle that he called "The Frieze of Life," will be included in the show.
Many of the artist's extraordinary prints, arragned to call attention to the major themes he explaned, also will be displayed. Some 20 Munch watercolors, none of which has been seen outside Norway, also will be exhibited, as will "The Tree of Knowledge," the large album in which Munch worked out his designs. More than 20 Munch self-portraits also will be displayed.
In announcing the exhibit, Brown discussed the new East Building's have seen," he said, "is the beginning of nations talking to each other on the "international significance." "What we basis of cultural heritage, transcending ideological differences and obstacles to peace. We may hear people say, 'He doesn't speak my language.' But the language of images is one all can understand."
The exhibition will remain on view throught Jan. 19, 1979.