EDVARD MUNCH (1863-1944)
Moonlight II
woodcut printed in black and grey from two blocks, 1902, on heavy buff wove paper, a very good impression of this rare subject, Woll's variant I (of II), signed in pencil, printed by M. W. Lassally, Berlin
Image 465 x 464 mm.
Sheet 565 x 568 mm.
Ingrid Lindbäck Langaard (1897-1982), Oslo.
Acquired from the above on 23 May 1964; then by descent to the present owner.
Schiefler 81B; Woll 202
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Lot Essay

Munch began working with woodcuts in the autumn of 1896 in Berlin and his first printed iteration of this subject, Moonlight I, based on a painting of the same name from 1893, was produced in that year. In the painting, a woman is shown, almost full length, in front of a house, leaning against a white picket fence. The moonlight illuminates her face but casts a long and sinister shadow on the wall behind her. In his woodcut versions Munch focuses the composition more closely on her facial features, cutting off her body just below the shoulders, and bringing her into the immediate foreground. A tree has been added to the right, which, with the window on the left, encloses her figure and flattens the pictorial space, creating a claustrophobic atmosphere. Her melancholy features shine ghostly and pale in the moonlight, seemingly imprisoned by the shadows that surround her. It has been suggested that the woman is Millie Thaulow, the wife of a captain in the medical corps of the Norwegian army. Munch and her met in 1885 and began a secret - and Munch’s first - love affair. The relationship was brief and unhappy, laying the foundations for Munch’s lifelong fear of intimacy.

In 1901, determined to find success in Germany, Munch had a number of his wood blocks, including Moonlight I, sent from Norway to his studio in Berlin. To his frustration, the blocks were accidentally sent to his cottage at Åsgårdstrand in Norway instead, precipitating the artist carving several new versions of these existing subjects in Berlin the following year. In Moonlight II Munch retains the richly textured wood grain to create the fugitive effects of light and shadow. The carving of the key block is more restrained than the first version, with the details of contour and texture pared back and refined to their descriptive essentials.

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