To mennesker. De ensomme

  • Artists:

    • Edvard Munch
  • Creation date: Platen utført 1894; trykket 1896
  • Object type: Print

Not on display


The title Two Human Beings is a straightforward description of the motif of this graphic print; The Lonely Ones describes the picture’s mood. Two figures with their backs to the viewer – a woman and a man – dominate the composition. The distance between them, the contrast between his dark and her light figure and the subtle twist in the man’s torso towards the woman express both attraction and distance. The shore on which they stand and the water they are facing emphasise the mood of yearning and loneliness both thematically and visually. This black and white print is executed in drypoint, a technique which allows soft strokes and surface effects. Munch’s finely tuned use of this technique and of half-tone, ranging from dazzling white through to fuzzy darkness, together with the intimate format and tight cropping of the subject, all enhance the tense calm of this love motif.

Munch began working with printmaking in Berlin in autumn 1894 and the plates for Two Human Beings are among the first he created. This print is one of eight that made up a portfolio published by the art historian Julius Meier-Graefe in 1895. The National Museum’s copy is dated 1896. Whether or not it is in fact attributable to that year is unclear. Nevertheless, this expressive little print strikingly illustrates that Munch was a masterly graphic artist from the very outset. The print reiterates (in mirror image) the motif of a painting Munch had worked on in the 1890s. That painting has since been lost, although we know of it from a photograph. Munch repeated the motif later in coloured woodcuts (1899 and 1917).

It is unclear when the museum acquired Two Human Beings, but it could have been as early as 1898.

Text: Sidsel Helliesen

From "Edvard Munch in the National Museum", Nasjonalmuseet 2008, ISBN 978-82-8154-035-54


  • Edvard Munch

    Visual artist, Painter, Graphic artist, Photographer, Drawing artist

    Born 12.12.1863 in Løten, Hedmark, death 23.01.1944 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.

Work info

Creation date:
Platen utført 1894; trykket 1896
Other titles:
To mennesker. De ensomme (NOR)
Zwei Menschen. Die Einsamen (GER)
Two Human Beings. The Lonely Ones (GER)
Object type:
Materials and techniques:
Koldnål på papir
Acquisition details unknown
Inventory no.:
Cataloguing level:
Single object
Owner and collection:
Nasjonalmuseet for kunst, arkitektur og design, The Fine Art Collections
Ivarsøy, Dag Andre