- Artist: Edvard Munch
- Creation date: 1896 (plate)
- Object type: Graphic arts
The blue used to print this lithograph reinforces the melancholy mood of the subject. With his eyes closed and his head bowed, the pale-faced man appears introverted and passive. The woman, who has turned away from him and is looking out to sea, is in the process of leaving the man, while the wind blows her long hair back towards his chest. In contrast to the darkness of the man, the woman is paler. The contrast between them is further emphasised by the drawing technique, the emphatic and energetic use of the lithographic tool in the depiction of the man, while a looser and more sensitive line is used for the female profile.
The motif may be interpreted as related to a separation experienced by the artist himself, and alluded to in his notes: “But even once she has vanished across the sea he feels / That delicate single threads are stuck fast in his heart / – it bleeds – and smarts like an eternally open wound.”
Separation II exists as a single-colour print, both with and without colouring, but also as a multi-coloured print. There are two lithographic versions of the separation motif – both from 1896. The version we have here concentrates on the heads of the couple. The motif is also rendered in a painting from 1893 and in another from 1896. In addition there are several sketches with related motifs from the years 1895 and 1896.
It is unclear when the National Gallery acquired this lithograph.
Born 1863 in Løten, Hedmark, death 1944 in Oslo
Edvard Munch worked as an artist for over sixty years. He was creative, ambitious and hardworking. He produced nearly two thousand paintings, hundreds of graphic motifs and thousands of drawings. In addition, he wrote poems, prose and diaries. The Scream, Madonna, Death in the Sickroom and the other symbolist works from the 1890s have made him one of the most famous artists of our time.
"Don't become an artist!"
Edvard wanted to become an artist early on, and there was no doubt that he had talent. But his father refused to allow him to follow his dream, so Edvard began studying engineering. But already after one year he chose to defy his father, and switched from engineering college to the Norwegian National Academy of Craft and Art Industry in Kristiania, now Oslo.
A talented and provocative bohemian
It was obvious to everyone in the Norwegian art community that the young man showed rare talent. In 1883, at the age of 20, he debuted at Høstutstillingen (The Autumn Exhibition). In 1886, Munch became acquainted with author and anarchist Hans Jæger, a leading figure in the Kristiania bohemian community. The bohemian community convinced Munch that the arts had to renew themselves to reach people and to have relevance in their lives. In the same year he exhibited the painting The Sick Child. This generated debate!
Courage led to breakthrough
Some acclaimed The Sick Child a work of genius, while others deemed it unfinished and unworthy of exhibition. Today it is considered to mark Munch's breakthrough. It was here that demonstrated the independence and willingness to break fresh ground.
From this point until his final brush strokes, his artistic practice can be summed up in just word: experimentation. Munch did not care about established "rules" for so-called good art. His techniques in both painting and graphics were innovative.
From people's emotional life to agriculture and landscape
Henrik Ibsen's plays about humanity's existential challenges inspired Munch. Themes such as death, love, sexuality, jealousy and anxiety were central to his early images. Some themes sprang from personal experience. For example, Death in the Sickroom and The Sick Child are linked to his memory of his mother and sister's illnesses and early deaths.
After 1910, Munch chose a quieter and secluded life. At his own farms at Ekely in Oslo and in Hvitsten, he found entirely new motifs, such as agriculture, working life and landscapes. Man in the Cabbage Field is a typical example from this period.