The Kiss IVThe Kiss

  • Artist: Edvard Munch
  • Creation date: 1902 (plate)
  • Object type: Graphic arts

About

The kissing couple is monumentally placed at the centre of the picture. The figures are considerably simplified and almost merge with one another. The motif expresses harmony, empathy and warmth.

The woodcut has been printed in black and a delicate grey-green tone from two blocks – a figure block that has been worked with gouges and a fretsaw, and a seemingly unworked background block with a vertical grain pattern. Munch was very interested in the visual effect of woodgrain and the textures it produced. In addition to being decorative elements, woodgrain and branch knots added life and movement to the picture.

There are four variations of the woodcut on this theme. The Kiss I and II were produced in 1897 and were among Munch’s earliest woodcuts. The Kiss III was created in 1898 and The Kiss IV in 1902. In each case the artist varies the nuances of the background by using different blocks that have been somewhat modified.

Munch painted this motif several times between 1892 and 1897. The version in the National Museum dates from 1892. The subject was first executed in print in an etching from 1895. Munch frequently returned to his previous motifs in order to explore them in other media. The characteristics of the various media enabled him to seek new expressive possibilities.

We do not know when the National Gallery acquired The Kiss IV.

Text: Møyfrid Tveit

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

Artist/producer

Edvard Munch

Billedkunstner

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.

Work info

Creation date:
1902 (plate)
Other titles:
Der Kuss IV (GER)
Kyss IV (NOR)
Kys (NOR)
Object type:
Materials and techniques:
Tontresnitt på papir
Material:
Dimensions:
  • Height: 471 mm
  • Width: 478 mm
Keywords:
Classification:
Acquisition:
Ervervelsesopplysninger under arbeid
Inventory no.:
NG.K&H.A.19517
Cataloguing level:
Single object
Owner and collection:
Nasjonalmuseet for kunst, arkitektur og design, The Fine Art Collections
Photo:
Ivarsøy, Dag Andre