The Sick Child (1886)
In that painting a sick girl, her mother's leaning head, their touching, trembling hands and profound silence are giving the impression of helplessness towards the illness and closing death. It seems to be artist's scream of despair and emotional compensation for the death of his sister. He perfectly captures child's inner suffering and establishes a paradox between her deep suffering and her patient awaiting of the final moment when her tormented soul will be taken into a quiet and calm place and finally given the peace she longs for in the painting, when looking towards the infinite horizon.
According to Munch himself, he repainted the picture 20 times before finally exhibiting it. Later in life he said that this experiment bore the seeds not only of central works of his own, but also of problems which were to occupy several styles of art in the 20th century.
The shocking effect the painting had when Munch exhibited it at the Autumn Exhibition in Kristiania in 1886 is unique in Norwegian art history. A storm of indignation and protest broke out. At the opening people crowded around in front of the painting and laughed, and in the press it was described as 'an abortion' and 'fish stew in lobster sauce'. Here it is important to underline why the people's reaction was so violent. They were not accustomed to see that kind of painting. At that time, art was still synonymous of beauty, harmony, good shape, and not of ugliness and pain.
In spite of the condemnation and grave criticism Edvard Munch didn't give up. Moreover, he would come back to that paiting many times within next years, repainting it in other techniques, but always with the same strucking emotions.
The Sick Child (Litograph 1896).
The Sick Child (1907)