Encounter in Space
- Edvard Munch
- M. W. Lassally (Founder, printer i.a. in duplication)
- Creation date: Platen utført 1898 eller 1899; trykket mellom 1902 og 1914
- Object type: Print
Two people – a woman and a man – float toward one another in apparent weightlessness against a dark background. Contours of sperm cells surround the couple. The erotic tension is the dominant element of this motif. The two people seem attracted to one another by subconscious powers. The contrast between the couple’s physical proximity and a certain emotive distance is suggested by the averted faces. In one of his commentaries on this picture, Munch compared people’s lives with the planets: “Human fates are like planets. They appear from the unknown only to meet and disappear.” This reference to a cosmic dimension is also reflected in the title of the woodcut.
The National Museum’s woodcut is printed in black, red and turquoise. In some variants of the motif turquoise is replaced with blue or yellowish green. The red figure of the man suggests pain and passion towards the woman, whereas her own bluish-green colour shows a cooler attitude in contrast. At the same time, the woman has turned to face empty space, whereas the inward curve of the man’s head and back are more introverted. This woodcut was printed from a single block of wood sawn into three pieces – the so-called puzzle method. Two small fragments have been replaced near the feet of the man and the woman, following damage to the block.
Among Munch’s graphic works we find a related motif in the lithograph Decorative Sketch from 1897/98, and in 1902 Munch returned to the subject in etching.
It is uncertain when the National Gallery acquired this work.
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.