Saturday, December 12, 2009


Our 114th hero is the fellow that painted the famous picture above. He is, of course, Edvard Munch born this day 1863 (42 years to the day after Flaubert), in Loten, Norway. I believe, but would have to verify, that Herr Munch would be our first Norwegian to grace this posts. His father was a doctor who was the son of a priest, and his pietism was to have a profound effect on young Edvard's upbringing. Munch wrote, “My father was temperamentally nervous and obsessively religious—to the point of psychoneurosis. From him I inherited the seeds of madness. The angels of fear, sorrow, and death stood by my side since the day I was born.” Munch was a sickly child who took refuge in drawing at an early age. He had a bit of a nomadic upbringing, moving from one sordid flat to another because his father's pay was too low to support the family after the mother's death from tuberculosis. Munch would later write, "I inherited two of mankind's most frightful enemies—the heritage of consumption and insanity." All in all, a rough beginning for anybody, and certainly a rough beginning for Munch. He enrolled in a technical college at the age of 16 in order to study engineering, but the next year he decided to toss that over and become a painter. This move did not go over in a big way with the paterfamilias, Munch senior considered painting an "unholy trade." Strong words of encouragement from the old man there. I confess that Munch's hero status is solely based on the painting above. "The Scream" says a lot of things to a man of my tender years going through the crisis I am going through. I have recently ran across mention of Munch in a couple of articles I read, and curious about him I ordered a biography of him. I only hope that, like Flaubert, he survives me reading it with his hero status intact. Munch seems to have a lived a colourful life, one that had a lot of ups and downs but rarely seemed boring. I hope that I develop a deeper appreciation for his other works, and do not end up thinking of him as some raging douche bag that the work is better off without. I will steal his words one more time, this time what he wrote about how his most famous painting came into being:

I was walking down the road with two friends when the sun set; suddenly, the sky turned as red as blood. I stopped and leaned against the fence, feeling unspeakably tired. Tongues of fire and blood stretched over the bluish black fjord. My friends went on walking, while I lagged behind, shivering with fear. Then I heard the enormous, infinite scream of nature."

Thus, one of the most recognizable paintings in human history (like the Mona Lisa, or American Gothic) came into being, partially because its creator was a mad as a March hare. Who said being crazy is always a bad thing? So for painting that painting that speaks to a little part of us all, Edvard Munch (December 12th, 1863-January 23rd, 1944, at the age of 80), you are my (second) hero of the day.

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