It’s a scream. As a Britney Spears-sparked debate rages over who invented the selfie, a striking new Edward Munch exhibit at the Met Breuer reminds that artists have captured their own images for centuries.
In “Between the Clock and the Bed,” which features 43 works and runs through Feb. 4, Munch reveals himself in 16 self-portraits (he called them “self-scrutinies”) that he painted between 1886 and 1943, the year before his death at age 80.
Unlike selfies that typically aim to be cute or sexy (or both), the Norwegian artist never flattered himself. An air of wariness comes through even in his 1895 take on himself as an alert and dapper young man smoking a cigarette. In late-career works, Munch appears wizened, with slits for eyes and practically ghost-like.
One of the show’s takeaways is how Munch’s work changed over time. We see experiments with scraping paint and laying it on in vertical and horizontal streaks.
“The Scream,” his most famous painting, isn’t in the show, but anxiety immortalized in the work is. It emanates from the artist’s various renderings of his sister’s death, an event that haunted him, as well as an unsettling depiction of a dying infant.
It’s also in takes on himself, including one in which he’s suffering bronchitis. It’s not a pretty picture, probably not the stuff of selfies. It’s all more intriguing for it.