26.Edvard Munch, ‘Madonna’, 1894-5.

26.Edvard Munch, ‘Madonna’, 1894-5.


E. Munch Presented in 1909 by Olaf Schou

A naked woman lies on her back with one hand under her neck and the other in the small of her back. Her eyes are closed, and her long, dark hair flows down over her shoulders and arms. Around her head is a red halo, echoed by curving lines in the background. Munch had assimilated important influences during his years in Paris and Berlin. In the book Das Werk des Edvard Munch, the Polish writer Stanislaw Przybyszewski describes this painting as the moment Life and Death shake hands.

In the lithographic version, Munch emphasises the erotic aspect further by adding round the composition a frame swimming with sperm cells, and an embryo in one corner. Woman is both elevated and abased. As a Madonna with the red halo of martyrdom she is an object of religious devotion, yet at the same time she is man ‘s sex object. Sensual satisfaction is likened to the moment of death. Characteristic of the 1890 s are both the simplification of form and also the rhythmical wavy lines which are repeated in the figure and the surrounding areas.

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