AH438-Midterm - Munch-Madonna

Artist: Munch, Edvard
Title of Work: Madonna
Date of Work: 1895
Nationality: Norwegian
Context: The Turn of the Century
Movement: Symbolism
Medium: Lithograph
Proto Expressionism
"pictures from the reverse side of the eye"

Subject: the Madonna cast as a femme fatale swooning in an orgasmic space. The woman has her hair let down and her body laid bare; strong expressions of sexuality and death (the unborn fetus in the lower left corner). Theme of Eros and Thanatos (sexuality coupled with death), a theme found often in Freud's writings. Motifs from the life of a modern soul, act II: sexual maturity.

Style: swirling lines that have some correspondence to the rhythmic, stylized lines of Art Nouveau, only there is nothing particularly decorative about the swimming sperm in the margins.

Context: turn of the century anxiety; the femme fatale reflects a gender confusion as women break out of the domestic confines of the home and move more into the workforce after the Industrial Revolution. Fears of a breakdown on the homefront in terms of the family unit lead to fears of women's newfound freedom and especially fears of an unleashed female sexuality. The femme fatale (fatal woman) reflects those cultural fears. This Madonna is a fully sexualized woman--once again an example of nature eroticized rather than spiritualized. Age of Freud and the discovery of the unconscious and the sexual drives that lurk in all of us; theme of Eros and Thanatos (Freud's coupling of sexuality and death urges)

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