You don’t have to be an art expert to be familiar with Norwegian Expressionist artist Edvard Munch’s masterpiece, “The Scream.” If you aren’t familiar, here’s a refresher:
Munch is making news that turns the focus away from big-ticket sales and thrilling heists and back to the nuts-and-bolts of his artistic process. Munch Museet, the Oslo-based museum responsible for safeguarding the artist’s archive, has teamed up with Adobe, the mega-software company behind Photoshop, to bring Munch’s paint brushes back to life.
In an effort to promote one artist’s legacy—and, of course, to launch a saleable product—they retrieved seven of Munch’s brushes from the depths of climatized storage and transformed them into digital tools.
When Munch died in 1944 at the age of 80, he left around 1,150 paintings, 17,800 prints, 4,500 watercolors, 13 sculptures, a stash of drawings, and the contents of his Norwegian studio to the city of Oslo. This massive trove included several of Munch’s masterpieces, as well as the paints and brushes he used to make them.
While Munch’s canvases are regularly on view in museums around the world, his materials rarely see the light of day, due to their inherent fragility. Photo documentation of the tools isn’t readily available to the public, either. Up until now, the only visual evidence of Munch’s process online has existed in several grainy, black-and-white photos of his studio.
Starting last year, Adobe and the Munch Museum set out to give Photoshop and Sketch users a first-hand understanding of the artist’s process. Their approach was unorthodox and unprecedented: Transform Munch’s age-old brushes into digital mark-making tools. When taken up by Photoshop- and Sketch-savvy millennials, the brushes would have the ability to imitate the artist’s strokes.
The custom brushes have been licensed by Adobe and used by graphic designers, illustrators, and artists the world over. Wired reported that Webster made over $100,000 in 2013 alone selling his virtual brush packs.
These custom brushes double as a marketing campaign for both Adobe and the Munch Museet. But they also connect a vital art-historical practice to contemporary artmaking in the digital age. the future of art.
This, my friends, is the future of art.