Edvard Munch, "Girls on the Bridge", 1901, Oil on canvas, 84 x 130 cm, Hamburger Kunsthalle, Hamburg.
Edvard Munch, 1863-1944, was a prolific Norwegian artist preoccupied with matters of human psychology, mortality, chronic illness, sexual liberation and religious aspiration. He expressed these obsessions through works of intense color, semi-abstraction, with vivid brushstrokes and mysterious subject matter. Following the great triumph of Impressionism, Munch took up the more graphic, symbolist sensibility of the influential Paul Gauguin, and in turn became one of the most controversial and eventually renowned artists among a new generation of continental Expressionist and Symbolist painters. Munch intended for his intense colors, semi-abstraction and mysterious, often open-ended themes to function as symbols of universal significance. Thus his drawings, paintings, and prints take on the quality of psychological talismans: having originated in Munch's personal experiences, they nonetheless bear the power to express, and perhaps alleviate, any viewer's own emotional or psychological condition. Similar to his Madonna, Edvard Munch went on to explore the theme of several girls standing on a long elevation above water, creating between 1901 and 1935 a total of twelve known oil paintings and a number of variations in etching, lithograph and woodcut. The location is Åsgårdstrand, a resort a few miles to the south of Oslo. He took a holiday residence there in the summer of 1889, which he rented for some years until he purchased a house in 1897. By varying the colors, the number of the protagonists, and their disposition, he mines the basic psychological framework, unearthing shades of moods, some notably brighter than others. Some of the most powerful pieces dress the ladies in red and white, suggesting the process of sexual awakening and awareness, much like in The Dance of Life. The undulating rhythm of the lines is comparable to the art nouveau style. The diagonal of the balustrade is reminiscent of The Scream, although here the sloping perspective lines are intercepted by the horizontal white garden wall.