Later, when Munch painted his Frieze of Life, he employed exclusively a manner of painting descended from the Yellow Boat, emphasizing in this later period its decorative and monumental possibilities. This, however, took place when the motives of the frieze had been found. During the next ten years his greatest effort was to find them, and the means he used in painting them differ according to the character of his motive.
Subject matter has a predominant place in Munch's art and in this respect he differs basically from Gauguin and indeed from the painters who have led in Paris down to the present day. 'The concern with ideal qualities of art, that insistence on a world of ideal beauty and the conviction that this is realizable through art' which one of their best critics has said characterize French symbolist poets were shared also by their contemporaries in painting.
Nothing could be farther from Munch's method of procedure than that which Gauguin describes in explaining the genesis of his painting Manoa Tupapau--The Spirit of the Dead Watches: as he was painting the model, concentrating on harmony of lines and colors, a certain emotion seemed to be emerging from the picture which suggested the idea of the ghost beside the bed and provided the title. Here the content follows the discovery of the form, and with Gauguin content in this sense is unprecise and vague--his 'inquiétude de mystère.' Munch's forms have significance when they are in a direct relation to his theme. His effort is not only to find forms, but images, pictorial ideas, motives which can convey what already is in his thought.
Even before 1891 Munch had been simplifying his forms for expression in a number of paintings which can be classified as distinct from the impressionist style or the Gauguin direction, although here the prevailing tendencies of French painting must also have played a role. Limited to a few colors or almost monochromatic, genre scenes are rendered with a new expressiveness of mood. Typical is the canvas Night, painted in blue and neutral tones, which represents a lonely man sitting by a window in the moonlight. The dramatic paintings of the gaming room at Monte Carlo belong to the same tendency. An early version of a motive for Munch's cycle painted in this manner, the Kiss by the Window of 1892, is still conceived realistically with strong emphasis on the window and the view into the street and the suggestion that the lovers have hidden themselves by the curtain.
The embrace suggested by the summary indications of posture and rendered in a silhouette is a concentration of expression through simplified means parallel to that of the Yellow Boat. By the end of this early period abroad Munch had found his direction and possessed new means of carrying it out. However, the uncertainties of attraction to opposed points of view had not disappeared. This is shown by the catalogue of the exhibition he held in Oslo when he returned finally from France. The titles reflect the phases he had gone through. Along with the Kiss, Evening and others of the new subject matter are tides which belong to the point of view of art for art's sake-Harmony in White and Blue, Color-Mood in Blue.
These last surprisingly resemble Whistler's titles. It is possible that another phase of Munch's work at this time may have been inspired by the American. The portrait of Inger Munch of 1892 with its careful arrangement of tones restricted to blue and black and a few warm accents brings his work to mind. The consequence of this exhibition, however, was to draw Munch into a new environment which was far removed from the atmosphere of Parisian painting. Munch was invited by the Union of Berlin Artists, on the initiative of the Norwegian painter Adelsten Normann, to send his pictures to its November exhibition. The showing of his pictures in Berlin was a turning point in Munch's career and also a significant event in the history of art in Germany.
Edvard Munch, Impressionism, Edvard Munch Biography, Munch Paintings, Munch Drawings, The Scream, Ash 1894, Bathing Man, Mermaid on the Shore, The Murderer, Separation, The Dance of Life, Madeban Auf Dem Pier, Jealousy, Young Girl on a Jetty, The Girls on the Pier, Four Girls on a Bridge, The Kiss, Girl with Red Hair, Lady From the Sea, Madonna 1895, Portrait of Madame Cézanne, Summer Night at the Beach, Girl on a Bridge, Summer Night at Asgarstrand, Vampire, White and Red, Madonna 1894, Bathing Man, The Sun, Moonlight