Edvard Munch was one of the cornerstones of 20th-century art. His highly charged and expressive paintings and prints set the emotional tone for this century's art. And his stark and provocative images of modern man remain unsurpassed in their incisive mirroring of human passion and primal needs.
Fifty-four of these images, consisting of woodcuts, etchings, and lithographs , are on view at Aldis Browne Fine Arts here. Included among these works by Munch are some of the greatest prints of the 20th century: ''Madonna,'' ''The Cry,'' ''Ashes II (After the Fall),'' ''Anxiety,'' ''Women on the Shore,'' ''Three Stages of Woman,'' ''Girls on the Bridge,'' ''The Kiss,'' and ''Nude With Red Hair.'' All are excellent impressions, and all are part of the collection of Mr. and Mrs. Lionel Epstein.
The exhibition concentrates on Munch's fascination with women, on their ability (as he saw it) to dominate and to reject, as well as on their genius at controlling the affections and the destinies of men. But it also focuses on woman as lover, as the source of life, as child, as male obsession, and as liberated female.
Some of the prints are shown in variant forms. This enables the viewer to see how Munch was able to alter the effect of a print through a change of color, or by adding color to a black-and-white image. The change, for instance, in the extensively hand-painted (with oil, watercolor, and crayon) 1896 lithograph ''The Sick Child'' is very dramatic. Its title is not really appropriate, since what was originally a slightly melancholy work was transformed into a radiantly alive and hauntingly beautiful image of childhood free of the impression of illness.
This truly first-rate exhibition will remain on view at Aldis Browne Fine Arts through Dec. 5. It will then travel to the McNay Institute in San Antonio (January-February 1982); the Abilene (Texas) Fine Arts Museum (March-April); and the University Art Galleries, University of Southern California, Los Angeles (September-October).
While this show is in New York, a $2 admission fee will be in effect for the benefit of the New York Pubic Library Print Room.