What Is Common Between Munch and Van Gogh?

Two great artists, Edvard Munch and Vincent van Gogh, were contemporaries, but they never met. Both of them were obsessed with art, and their lives were full of tragic events. This year, for the first time in history, the iconic artists appear together in a dual exhibition that explores the parallels in the work and life of two geniuses. The initiators and organizers of the exhibition are the world’s leading monographic museums: the Munch Museum in Oslo and the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. The first of two planned “Munch : Van Gogh” exhibitions has already passed in Oslo. The grand opening of the second part is expected on September 25, 2015, at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. Among 100 paintings displayed at the exhibition, the organizers are particularly pleased to present the indisputable masterpieces that are rarely shown to the public: “Starry Night over the Rhone” and “The Farmer (Patience Escalier)” by Vincent van Gogh and “The Scream” and “Madonna” by Edvard Munch.

It’s interesting that in the 1880s, both artists, being in the creative search, visited Paris at the same time. They were in the same places and they had common friends, but they never met (at least, there is no such evidence). In Paris, each of them tried different techniques and took something new from other artists. Thus, van Gogh was interested in Impressionism, and Munch experimented with Expressionism and Modern art. However, after 1900, Munch’s landscapes were particularly affected by the work of van Gogh. The similarity can be seen in color, construction, composition, and perspective.

What’s more, both artists grew up in Protestant families. Van Gogh’s father was a priest, and Munch’s father was a doctor who became a deeply religious man after his wife’s death. When Edvard’s mother died, he was only 5 years old. 9 years later, he lost his sister. The childish fear of loneliness, as well as the fear of losing a loved person, remained with Munch for a lifetime. As for van Gogh, his history is no less dramatic. Vincent was named in honor of his dead brother, the first-born of van Gogh’s family. So, perhaps, the artist’s misfortune can be explained by the fact that he was living someone else’s life… As a result, both talented artists suffered from loneliness, none of them met his true love, and both were susceptible to depression and mental disorders. The mania of persecution and alcoholism brought Munch to a nervous breakdown, and in 1908, he was hospitalized. Van Gogh was treated at the Saint Paul mental hospital in 1889-1890, but eventually, he committed suicide…

However, there is one very significant difference between the artists: one of them was rich and famous, the other – poor and unrecognized. Munch sold his first work at the age of 18, and his first solo exhibition was held in Oslo when he was only 26. His works were a success and made Edvard a wealthy man. Van Gogh was very poor – he managed to sell only one painting titled “The Red Vineyards.” Despite this, now you have an excellent opportunity to admire works by two masters in one museum. The “Munch : Van Gogh” exhibition will be on view from September 25 through January 17, 2016.