The setting of The Storm is the Norwegian seaside village of Åsgårdstrand, where Munch often spent his summers. The main figure and the group behind her cover their ears to keep out the sound of the storm’s howling winds. This painting was made the same year Munch originated the motif of The Scream. Here the depiction is more naturalistic, and the characters are female rather than male, but the compositions both reflect Munch’s preoccupation with the concept of a solitary individual set apart from a community of others
Gallery label from Edvard Munch: The Scream, October 24, 2012–April 29, 2013.
Munch painted The Storm in Åsgårdstrand, a small Norwegian seaside resort where he often stayed. There had indeed been a violent storm there that summer, but the painting does not appear to show it, or even its physical aftermath; the storm here is an inner one, a psychic distress. Standing near the water, in an eerie blue half–light, half–dark Scandinavian summer night, a young woman clasps her hands to her head. Other women, standing apart from her, make the same anguished gesture—to what end we are not sure. The circle in which they stand, and the protagonist’s white dress, give to the scene the feeling of some ancient pagan ritual, even while the solid house in the background, its lit windows shining in the dark, suggests some more regular life from which these women are excluded—or perhaps that they find intolerable.
Munch’s art suggests a transformation of personal memories and emotions into a realm of dream, myth, and enigma. His exposure to French Symbolist poetry during a stay in Paris had convinced him of the necessity for a more subjective art; there was no need, he said, for more paintings of “people who read and women who knit.” Associated with the international development of Symbolism in the 1890s, he is also recognized as a precursor of Expressionism.
The Storm. 1893
Publication excerpt from The Museum of Modern Art, MoMA Highlights, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, revised 2004, originally published 1999, p. 44.