Moonlight I

  • Artists:

    • Edvard Munch
  • Creation date: Platen utført 1896 eller 1897; trykket mellom 1897 og 1899
  • Object type: Print

Not on display


Moonlight was one of Munch’s first coloured woodcuts. It was created in Paris in 1896. Munch began working with prints in Berlin in the autumn of 1894, initially with etchings, and after a short time, with lithographs, in both cases in black and white. But the use of colour intrigued him. In Paris he collaborated with the renowned printer Auguste Clot, together with whom he created, among other things, the lithograph The Sick Child, both in black and white and a range of colour versions. In parallel, Munch began working with woodcuts. From that point on he was not just a masterly exponent of graphic techniques, he also became a significant pioneer in the field.

For Moonlight Munch used several blocks. But rather than create a single block for each colour in the print, he cut up a single block, inking each of the pieces separately and then putting the pieces back together again (the puzzle method). He varied the colours he used in a range of prints, frequently reworking and printing from the same blocks at later times. For example, he produced a new version of Moonlight in 1902. The National Museum’s print however apparently belongs to those created in 1896. Characteristic of Munch’s woodcuts, in addition to the puzzle method, is the simplification of the formal language, the rough cuts in the blocks and the use of the woodgrain to create a surface pattern in the print. His characteristic style became influential for later generations of woodcut artists.

The motif of this print is a (mirror inverted) section of the painting Moonlight from 1893 Munch regarded repetitions of this kind as new versions. Smaller or larger differences in the cropping of the motif, form, colour and materiality added nuances to the visual statement.

It is not known when the National Gallery acquired the woodcut Moonlight.

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 1896 eller 1897; trykket mellom 1897 og 1899
Other titles:
Måneskinn I (NOR)
Mondschein I (GER)
Object type:
Materials and techniques:
Fargetresnitt på papir
Acquisition details unknown
Inventory no.:
Cataloguing level:
Single object
Owner and collection:
Nasjonalmuseet for kunst, arkitektur og design, The Fine Art Collections
Høstland, Børre