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SFMOMA’s New Edvard Munch Show Has It All—Except ‘The Scream’

But there’s still plenty of despair to go around.

Sick Mood at Sunset. Despair, 1892.

You love The Scream. You’ve had it on a beach towel, or a dorm-room poster, or maybe a really awful necktie (you were high). So let’s get this out of the way: The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art’s upcoming exhibit Edvard Munch: Between the Clock and the Bed (Jun. 24–Oct. 9) does not include The Scream. Still, with 45 paintings covering 50 years of the avant-garde Norwegian’s life, the retrospective offers another angle from which to view one of the most important artists of his time. Here, a primer. 

1. Reflections on an artist
Munch was in many ways his own greatest subject. The exhibit includes 15 of his self-portraits, including Self-Portrait in Hell (1903) and one of his final works, Between the Clock and the Bed (1940–43)—perhaps his second-best-known work. That piece even served as inspiration for a Jasper Johns painting, Between the Clock and the Bed (1982–83), that was recently on display at the museum as part of its 2016 Campaign for Art.

2. Revise, revise, revise
Munch frequently made duplicate versions of his works, including The Scream (copies of which exist at the Metropolitan Museum in New York and the Munch Museum in Oslo). He painted six different versions of The Sick Child between 1886 and 1927; two of them are included in the exhibit. 

3. Prelude to The Scream
One year before The Scream came a compositionally similar work, Sick Mood at Sunset. Despair (1892). “It’s a solitary figure who seems like he’s feeling disconnected from the other men walking along this pier,” says Caitlin Haskell, the museum’s associate curator of painting and sculpture. “Munch is really interested in psychology—how bodies and souls are in this constant state of integration and dissolution in the world.”


Originally published in the June issue of San Francisco 

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