Inger in Black and Violet

  • Artist: Edvard Munch
  • Creation date: 1892
  • Object type: Painting


In the portrait of Edvard Munch’s sister Inger we see a young woman standing face on, erect and monumental. Her expression is controlled yet guarded, her posture constrained, her gaze thoughtful and introverted. Her hands are folded and her hair is tied back away from her pale face. The impression of chaste modesty is reinforced by the high black collar of her dress, tightly clasping her neck.

Inger Munch stands in front of a cool blue-grey wall that seems to form a vacuum around her, thus underlining the impression of isolation. At the same time the colour of the floor on which she is standing is warm and earthy. This surprising colour contrast creates a complex statement that alternates between the ethereal and the earthbound.

Edvard Munch is well known for the psychological depth he gives to personal characteristics. This portrait of his sister is one of his first monumental full-length portraits. Here he follows a long art historical tradition. In his portraits, Munch concentrates on the essential element of the model. He often places his figures against empty or only very sparsely furnished rooms, allowing their personality to be conveyed by their posture, eyes, face and hands, together with the expressive qualities of the colours employed.

This picture was purchased for the National Gallery in 1899.

Text: Nina Denney Ness

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


Edvard Munch


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:
Other titles:
Inger i svart og fiolett (NOR)
Object type:
Materials and techniques:
Olje på lerret
  • Width: 122.5 cm
  • Height: 172.5 cm
Motif - type:
Acquired 1899
Inventory no.:
Cataloguing level:
Single object
Owner and collection:
Nasjonalmuseet for kunst, arkitektur og design, The Fine Art Collections
Høstland, Børre