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    Ground view of the National Gallery's glass pyramids looking towards the East Building

    Research Reports

    Allison Morehead
    Center 43

    Allison Morehead

    Edvard Munch, Modernism, and Medicine

    Four impressions of Edvard Munch’s Madonna, Photo: Allison Morehead. Left to right: (1) Edvard Munch, Madonna, 1895, printed 1913/1914, color lithograph, National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of The Epstein Family Collection, 2015.5.1; (2) Edvard Munch, Madonna, 1895, color lithograph and woodcut (1902 printing) on paper: lithograph printed from 3 stones in beige, red, and black; woodcut printed from 1 block in blue, National Gallery of Art, Washington, The Epstein Family Collection, 1990.26.2; (3) Edvard Munch, Madonna, 1895/1902, color lithograph, The Epstein Family Collection, on deposit at the National Gallery of Art, x.38656; (4) Edvard Munch, Madonna, 1895/1902, lithograph, National Gallery of Art, Washington, Epstein Family Collection, 2021.101.1

    My research supports the project “Edvard Munch, Modernism, and Medicine,” the main output of which is an exhibition scheduled for the Munch Museum in Oslo in summer 2025, tentatively titled Edvard Munch and the Medicalization of Modern Life. The bulk of the research accomplished during my fellowship involved the collections and archives of the National Gallery of Art. Most significantly, I was able to study about 95 of the approximately 300 prints and drawings by Edvard Munch from the Epstein Family Collection and the Rosenwald Collection. This deepened my expertise of Munch’s practice and enabled me to efficiently study prints that will be included in the exhibition. Most importantly, I was able to study, together, four impressions of Madonna, a centerpiece of the Epstein Family Collection. In my planned exhibition, different versions of Madonna will help to thematize the medicalization of sex, reproduction, and birth control. Additionally, I was able to study the Epstein family’s related files, recently transferred to the National Gallery, as well as the vertical files and archives to gather material related to the collecting and exhibiting of Munch’s works since the 1970s, including significant exhibitions at the National Gallery. Throughout this work, as intended, I sought to better understand Sally Epstein’s twin passions for Munch’s work and family planning.

    Edvard Munch, Madonna, 1895, color lithograph and woodcut [1902 printing] on paper: lithograph printed from 3 stones in beige, red, and black; woodcut printed from 1 block in blue, The Epstein Family Collection, 1990.26.2

    During my fellowship, I traveled to Boston, Philadelphia, and New York to visit institutions and archives to support my research and curatorial work. In Boston, I gathered material from the Clarence J. Gamble Archive in the Countway Library of Harvard Medical School. Gamble was Sally Epstein’s father; a longtime collaborator of Margaret Sanger, an American birth control activist; and the founder of Pathfinder International, an organization that has only recently begun to reckon with how its founder’s racist and eugenicist beliefs determined its work. I also visited the MassArt Art Museum to study the curatorial strategies of their exhibition Designing Motherhood: Things That Make and Break Our Births. Like my exhibition, Designing Motherhood combines art with material cultures of health and medicine. In Philadelphia, I spent extensive time at the Mütter Museum at the College of Physicians, studying both its collection and display strategies. In New York, I focused largely on the Whitney Biennial 2022, including the work of disability activist artist Emily Barker.

    In addition to collections and archives research, I continued my writing and curatorial work for Edvard Munch and the Medicalization of Modern Life. During the period of my fellowship, I worked especially intensely on the checklist for the exhibition and editorial work for the catalog. In partnership with my colleagues at the Munch Museum, I largely completed the checklist and remaining loan letters, finalized the catalog concept, issued the remaining invitations to contributing authors and artists, and worked with the museum’s internal teams to develop strategies for outreach, in particular to our special target group, health-care workers and their families. In addition, I completed a proposal, which I had been invited to submit, for a set of contemporary art interventions to take place in conjunction with the exhibition.

    Queen’s University
    Ailsa Mellon Bruce Visiting Senior Fellow, summer 2022

    Allison Morehead will return to Queen’s University in the fall of 2022 as associate professor of art history and continue curatorial work on the exhibition Edvard Munch and the Medicalization of Modern Life.