Lithograph printed in black and colour woodcut printed in blue, green, yellow and reddish yellow on thin Japan paper
Sheet 435-445x645-660 mm Image: 385x554 mm
Signed in pencil lower right: Edv Munch
Auctioned Thursday December 12 2013 at 15:00
LITERATURE: Arne Eggum: Edvard Munch. Paintings ??? sketches and studies, Oslo 1984, 2. ed. 1986.
Magne Bruteig: ???-Above were the heavenly Stars???, Blossom of Pain Edvard Munch, exhibition catalogue Museet for religiøs kunst, Lemvig and Listsavn Føroya, Færøernes Kunstmuseum, Nordisk Kulturfond 2005.
Gerd Woll: Edvard Munch Complete Paintings, London 2009.
Per Faxneld: ???Blood, Sperm and Astral Energy-Suckers: Edvard Munch???s ???Vampire??????, eMunch.no ??? Text and Image, exhibition catalogue the Munch-museet, Oslo 2011, (translated to English by Glenn Ostling).
Gerd Woll: Edvard Munch ??? The complete graphic Works, Oslo 2012, cat.no. 41.
When Edvard Munch for the first time in 1893 exhibited this subject in Berlin, he called it: Liebe und Schmerz (Love and Pain) (Woll 334). Stanislaw Przybyszewski saw the picture at that time, and he called it something other: «Vampyr» (Vampire). As Eggum writes:
Subsequently, this theme has generally been referred to as «Vampire», a title suggested by Munch???s friend, the Polish author Stanislaw Przybyszewski, ???. P. 112.
In his book about Munch???s art of 1894, which Przybyszewski edited and where he also wrote one of four articles, see cat.no. 33, the theme Liebe und Schmerz is, in other words, for the first time in writing entitled Vampyr (Vampire). Munch was probably carried away and when the picture was exhibited in 1895 (the same version as was exhibited in 1893, or a very similar one (Woll 334 or 335)), he called it Vampire himself. Afterwards, in later versions, Edvard Munch seems to let the woman emerge somewhat more «vampire-like» than in the version of 1893, which Przybyszewski discusses. Munch gives the woman longer and heavier red hair that seems to engulf the man as tentacles, and contributes to suck the strength and energy out of him, or at least might be interpreted in that manner, if one wants to. Then another interpretation might be that the voluminous hair also engulfs her, and that they are in it together, draining each other???s strength or actually comforting each other?
The times are changing, and vampires became out of date, and in the early 1930s Munch said:
???(The title) «Vampire» is the one that really makes the picture literary, but in fact it is just a woman kissing a man on the neck???. Faxneld, p. 188.
Under the title «Woman» Magne Bruteig writes among other things:
Among the numerous women in Munch???s art we find both the pure, innocent young maid and the erotic, aggressive «femme fatale», the woman as a swan and a mermaid, as a vampire and a madonna, as a temptation and a victim ??? to mention just a few.
This is also typical of the period. The view on women and women???s social position was changing. Vocational possibilities were still minimal, but the struggle for the right to vote and for equality had begun. Norsk Kvinnesaksforening (Norwegian Association of Women's Rights) was founded in 1885. In 1889 the female workers in match factories went on strike against low wages and dangerous working conditions. Within the area of culture, a number of women asserted themselves both as writers and as visual artists.
Women???s sexuality was a controversial question then as it is today: As late as 1887 Dr. Oscar Nielsen ((Sic!) Nissen) established at a meeting in Studentersamfundet (the Students??? Association) that it was his experience as a gynaecologist that only 10% of women had any sexuality. Naturally, such women were not from the middle classes, but from the lower classes in general, and often prostitutes. Prostitution was widespread in Kristiania. In the 1880s more than half the adult male population had contact with prostitutes. ??? Jæger agitated for a more liberal sex education and for practicing free love. This would make prostitution superfluous. The woman had ???suddenly??? become interesting as a sex partner, and as an erotic person. Not only was she «allowed» sexuality, perhaps she was even more erotic than the man because she had closer contact with nature, feelings, lust. This view was not limited to the circle around Jæger. It spread in leading, intellectually radical circles all over Europe.
However, ideal and reality are often very different. As free love turned out to be difficult, the ideal woman also faded. She became perverted, unpredictable, aggressive, and animal. Depictions of women in the 1890s have been created from the juxtaposition of these extremes.
And this view on erotics and sexuality pervades many, though not all Munch???s pictures of women during this period. Sexuality was dangerous, women unpredictable and controlled by their animal instincts. The woman in «Death and the Woman» ??? and «The Kiss of Death» ??? may look like «Madonna». However, here she does not bring life, but death. She also does so in «Vampire» ???, or does she? The original title was «Love and Pain», which suggests something quite different. Does he not seek comfort? And is that not what she gives him? P. 52-54.
«Vampire» is one of the themes Munch returns to for renewed treatment many years later after the first versions. He has drawn and painted the subject in 1893 (Woll 331, 334, 335), painted it in 1894 (Woll 349), made a lithograph in 1895 (Woll 377 and Woll 40), made combination prints, like this one, in 1902 (Woll 41) and painted it, and made new colour-plates to some of his former solid-colour prints in 1916-18 (Woll 1172, 1173, 1174, 1175, 1176 and Woll 41).