• Artist: Edvard Munch
  • Creation date: (1894)
  • Object type: Painting


A naked young girl with loose hair is sitting on the edge of a bed, hiding her crotch with her arms. She stares at us with wide-open eyes. The composition is simple, with the frontally depicted body vertical in contrast to the horizontal lines of the bed. To the left of the girl lies a pillow, to the right a large, dark shadow is thrown on the lighter wall.

The National Museum’s version of this motif was painted in Berlin in the winter of 1894-95. Aspects of Puberty link it to the naturalism of the 1880s. The girl’s skinny arms and immature breasts combined with her relatively large hands and feet are realistically rendered. At the same time the painting has elements that anticipate Munch’s later, more expressive style. The picture deals with a girl’s approach to sexual maturity in a manner that is frank and unembellished. The threatening shadow can be seen as a projection of the girl’s inner state of mind. Comparable shadows feature in several other works by Munch.

Many people have wondered how a male artist could empathise with the emotional world of a young girl in this way. A verbal counterpart of this mood is provided by the Polish poet Stanislav Przybyszewski, who was closely attached to the Scandinavian circle in Berlin at the time:

She sensed it, she didn’t understand […] She couldn’t imagine, she merely felt the wild, quivering shudder surge through her body. She clasped both her hands between her knees, bent forwards and pulled in her feet, and there she sat, huddled up on the edge of the bed, listening in anxious pain to something unfamiliar and frightening. What was it? It came so often, always afresh! It frightened her. It made her tremble. The entire house was full of ghosts. (Translated from Underveis, Kra: 1895).

The picture was purchased in 1909 with a donation from the A.C. Houen Fund.

Text: Frode Haverkamp

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:
Other titles:
Pubertet (NOR)
Object type:
Materials and techniques:
Olje på lerret
  • Height: 151.5 cm
  • Width: 110 cm
  • Depth: 2.6 cm
Motif - type:
Kjøpt for A.C. Houens fond 1909
Inventory no.:
Part of exhibition:
Edvard Munch udstilling, 1904
Becoming Edvard Munch: Influence, Anxiety and Myth, 2009
Edvard Munch. Symbols & Images, 1978 - 1979
Livets dans. Samlingen fra antikken til 1950, 2011 - 2019
Visions du nord. Lumière du monde, lumière du ciel, 1998
Edvard Munch. I oss er verdener, 2019 - 2020
Edvard Munch. Peintures, oeuvre gravé, 1952
Ausstellung Edvard Munch, 1954
Edvard Munch, 1952
Munch exhibition, 1981
Munch exhibition, 1982
Edvard Munch, 1970
Edvard Munch - Thema und Variation, 2003
Munch exhibition, 1982
Edvard Munch: An Exhibition of Paintings, Etchings, Litographs, 1952
Edvard Munch: An Exhibition of Paintings, Etchings, Litographs, 1951
Edvard Munch. L’ Œil Moderne, 2011 - 2012
Fyns Stiftsmuseums Edvard Munch udstilling, 1955
Munch exhibition, 1982
Edvard Munch, 1970
Edvard Munch. The modern life of the soul, 2006
Edvard Munch. The Frieze of Life, 1992 - 1993
Edvard Munch og den tsjekkiske kunst, 1971
Ausstellung Edvard Munch, 1955
Munch and Photography, 1997
Edvard Munch. Signs of Modern Art, 2007
Kunstforeningens Edvard Munch udstilling, 1955
Post-impressionism. Cross-currents in European painting 1880-1906, 1979 - 1980
[Malerier og grafikk av Edvard Munch], 1982
Munch exhibition, 1981
Det magiske nord. Finsk og norsk kunst rundt 1900, 2015
Bilder vom Menschen in der Kunst des Abendlandes - Jubiläumsausstellung der Preussischen Museen Berlin 1830-1980, 1980
Edvard Munch. Wiener Festwochen, 1959
Munch 150, 2013
Edvard Munch: An Exhibition of Paintings, Etchings, Litographs, 1951
Edvard Munch, 1970
Edvard Munch, 1971
La biennale di Venezia, 1954
Edvard Munch: An Exhibition of Paintings, Etchings, Litographs, 1951 - 1952
Edvard Munch: An Exhibition of Paintings, Etchings, Litographs, 1951
Edvard Munch, 1958 - 1959
The masterworks of Edvard Munch, 1979
Det magiske nord. Finsk og norsk kunst rundt 1900 (Hovedtittel/ anvendt/ Norsk), 2015
[Malerier og grafikk av Edvard Munch], 1982
Cataloguing level:
Single object
Owner and collection:
Nasjonalmuseet for kunst, arkitektur og design, The Fine Art Collections
Børre Høstland/Lathion, Jacques