- Artist: Edvard Munch
- Creation date: (1893)
- Object type: Painting
A finely tuned interplay of contrasts is one of the defining features of this evocative painting. Intense, cool moonlight falls on a picket fence and a window frame behind the woman in the foreground, while also illuminating her pale face. The rest of the woman’s figure, together with the shadow on the wall and the garden, lies in muffled obscurity. Here we find shapes with concise, undulating contours that stand in contrast with the rhythmically patterned, rectangular forms of the fence and the house. Set against these flat, frontal elements, the woman’s shadow and the sections of fence and wall create an element of depth in the composition. But the visual components are not in themselves what matter most; the concise, underlying mood is one of loneliness, yearning and angst.
Munch painted this picture in summer 1893 at Åsgårdstrand, where he also painted The Voice (now in the Munch Museum), which tackles a related theme. Three years later he returned to this motif in a woodcut.
The painting was purchased for the National Gallery in 1938 with funds donated by Olaf Schou, with a contribution from Marit Nørregaard.
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.