Munch's Ibsen

A Painter's Visions of a Playwright

Joan Templeton

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  • $40.00s hardcover (9780295987767) Add to Cart
  • Published: 2008
  • Subject Listing: Art History / European Art; Literary Studies; History / European History
  • Bibliographic information: 256 pp., 156 illus., 96 in color, 7 x 10 in.
  • Series: New Directions in Scandinavian Studies
  • Contents

Drawing on printed and archival sources, including Munch's extensive unpublished writings, Munch's Ibsen provides a comprehensive account of the connection between the two great Norwegian modernists. Situating the interlocking careers of Edvard Munch and Henrik Ibsen within Norway's cultural history, Joan Templeton establishes Ibsen's primordial importance for Munch as a pioneering modernist voice. She examines the over 400 illustrations Munch made of Ibsen's plays, one of the greatest homages a painter ever made to a writer, showing how Ibsen's imaginative universe was an essential and integral part of Munch's life and work as a whole.

Templeton studies the illustrations as readings of Ibsen's plays and as examples of some of Munch's best work in various media: the witty, tender drawings of Peer Gynt; the eloquent oil sketches of Ghosts; the powerful woodcuts of The Pretenders; the sumptuous oil paintings of John Gabriel Borkman. She shows how some of the strongest of the illustrations result from Munch's accommodation of his own symbolic structures to Ibsen's text. She also demonstrates how Munch sometimes refigured Ibsen's texts to fit his own experiences and convictions in a process of reification that is as interesting as his fidelity. She offers a detailed analysis of Munch's famous portraits of Ibsen and a historical and analytical account of Munch's work on the Ibsen stage productions through which he painted himself into theatrical history.

Munch's Ibsen will appeal to students of modern literature and art, art history, the history of the modern theatre, Scandinavian art and culture, and interdisciplinary approaches to the humanities.
Joan Templeton is professor of English and comparative literature at Long Island University, Brooklyn. She has published widely on Ibsen and other modern dramatists and is the author of the acclaimed book Ibsen's Women.

"An entirely new analysis of the 'visual Ibsen': the hundreds of sketches, drawings, illustrations, and set designs for Ibsen's plays done by the most famous Norwegian painter, Edvard Munch. This is a unique kind of visual extension of Ibsen's dramatic texts."
-Mark B. Sandberg, University of California, Berkeley

"Templeton's understanding of Ibsen's texts and her ability to recognize Munch's visual renderings of similar themes is convincing and well argued."
-Gerd Woll, Munch Museum, Oslo

"Munch's Ibsen is a pioneering study, an important book that will enrich the intellectual life of both my students at this university and my colleagues throughout the world."
-Jan Sjavik, University of Washington

List of Illustrations
Documentation and Translation

1. Letting in the Light: The Norwegian Culture Wars
2. Theatre Programs and Ibsen Portraits
3. Sketches for the Kammerspiele
4. Portraits of the Artist as Peer Gynt
5. Carving Norway's Saga
6. Artists and Models
7. Starry Night at Ekely
In Ibsen's Company

Selected Bibliography

"Joan Templeton's research and the beautiful artifact which contains it-the hard-bound, richly illustrated book-constitute a highly engaging, thought-provoking and emotionally moving read. Her study makes a significant contribution to the fields of Munch studies and Ibsen studies and can be used productively in the teaching of both subjects."
-Gergana May, Scandinavian-Canadian Studies, Vol. 20 (2011)

"Joan Templeton's much-anticipated book does not disappoint. Concisely written, cogently argued, richly illustrated, and beautifully designed . . . it should be read by anyone interested in Ibsen, Munch, modern drama, comparative literature, and modern Scandinavian studies. . . . Templeton's important study with its many brilliant insights and superb illustrations will undoubtedly serve as a catalyst for future scholarship."
-Clarence Burton Sheffield, Jr., Scandinavian Studies