Screaming From Birth

A new biography of Edvard Munch suggests that the painter’s tortured childhood went a long way towards shaping the ghoulish style he would bring to his art. “Art enabled Munch to sidestep the claims of family, religion, sexuality and prevailing local attitudes to aesthetics… without simply repudiating his experiences. So it’s no wonder so many of Munch’s paintings are filled with smoke and smokers, tantalising and infecting at once. Often the world itself turns to heavy, poisonous smoke under his brush. Sick, dying and dead children melt into nothingness; predatory women with tangled red hair present themselves to the gaze; family trees become gibbets on which all the generations to come will swing.”