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Edvard Munch’s ’Alpha and Omega’ series: a summation of the Frieze of life series Zogaris, Evangeline

Abstract

The Alpha and Omega series was executed in 1908, during Munch's hospitalization in a psychiatric clinic where he was receiving intense treatments for a mental breakdown. The subject matter and the iconography of the Alpha and Omega series is closely interrelated with Munch's most significant works, the Frieze of Life series, with which he was preoccupied between the years 1892 to 1902. The two main issues of the Frieze of Life series which deal with the relationships between man and woman and. the aspects of life and death, are closely associated with Munch's philosophy on life, love and death as it was formulated from his personal experiences. Between the years 1902 to 1908, Munch no longer painted works which were thematically or iconographically related to the Frieze of Life series. These years are stigmatized as his wandering years which were spent travelling around Europe. He purposely stayed, away from Norway, because during this period, he tried to avoid any confrontation with memories of past experiences which he feared might affect his mental and physical stability. Finally in 1908, he suffered a severe mental crisis and admitted himself to a psychiatric clinic in Copenhagen. With his doctor's encouragement, Munch carried out his previous plans of putting together a portfolio made up of a poem about man and woman, and Illustrated by a series of lithographs; in this work, he once again dealt with the philosophical issues of life, love and death. Through the revaluation of Munch's philosophies which were closely interrelated with his inner feelings and anxieties, his doctor believed that Munch would be able to bring under control all his frustrations and thus recover from his mental illness. An examination of the social and philosophical milieu in which Munch lived and worked, will enable one to comprehend his philosophy on life, love and death as it was derived from his personal experience. An analysis of the works which constitute the Frieze of Life series will later be used for comparison between the Frieze and the Alpha and Omega series. Through the revaluation of his philosophies as they were recreated in the Alpha and. Omega cycle and through the final conclusion of the cycle, in which he sought vengeance on woman for the harm she had caused him, he summarized all his philosophical notions concerning life, love and. death. After the completion of the Alpha and Omega cycle, and after his recovery, he seldom, if at all, executed works which were related to the main issues of the Frieze of Life series.

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