Art: The Master of the Anxious Eye

In Washington's National Gallery, a major Munch show

In art as in life, the world is full of bad expressionism. The bore relentlessly baying "This is me" has his pictorial equivalent in the artist who decants his steaming guts on the canvas and asks you to admire their authenticity. In our post-psychological culture there are not many artists who make something aesthetically pleasing, let alone compelling, from the repetitive pattern of their own neuroses and fears.

The confessional splurge works against the kind of detached, highly wrought structure that art needs. There have been exceptions, of course.

From Van Gogh to Francis Bacon,...

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