Munch painted a number of pictures of children in the early years of the century and usually his interest was in the characteristics of the stage of life as such. An amusing emphasis on little boys as opposed to girls is the representation of going home from school in the painting Boys, Girls and Ducks. The aggressive boys are in a compact mass behind their leader in the foreground, while the girls form a quiet and withdrawn group under the tree.
A new, freer manner of painting appeared in Munch's works of 1904. The flat tones are replaced by color applied in varied brush strokes in a number of tones, although not in the high-keyed palette of Impressionism. The Garden Wall, another view of the great trees of Aasgaardstrand, is painted in a way meant to bring out the differences of the textures and the surfaces of the earth and rocks in the foreground, the smooth surface of the wall and the foliage of the trees.
Paintings of the following years carry this direction further, but for one kind of work Munch continued the old, more abstract style. This was in paintings intended for the decoration of a specific place. Munch received two such commissions, the first in 1904 from Linde of Lübeck, who rejected the pictures when they had been completed, and the other in 1906 from Max Reinhardt for his theatre in Berlin. It is probable that the People on the Beach, since it is approximately of the dimensions of the paintings of the Linde Frieze (as they are called) and is similar to them in subject, was painted as a study for this project. The juxtaposition of the men and women on the shore without differentiation of their feelings or any expression of interaction between the sexes is another evidence of the change in Munch from the previous decade.
In the years 1905 to 1908 Munch emphasized more and more the rendering of actual visual experience in his painting. At the same time symbolic content was stressed more strongly. Adam and Eve, which represents a young woman and a young man in an orchard, is painted in vibrant broken colors with a verve and a freedom that is a return to Impressionism, and yet the concentration of the man on the woman, as she stands apparently unaware of him and about to bite an apple, establishes the note of sexual tension. In Munch's version of the story, the man is the one who feels temptation. Preoccupation with themes of the relations of the sexes increased in 1906 and 1907. There can be no doubt that this was a reflection of his own increasing inner tension.
Munch attributed his troubles to a series of unhappy experiences in the years 1902 and 1904. In his own view the deepest wound was the climax in the former year of a troubled love affair which had begun three or four years earlier. Discretion is still maintained concerning this relationship. The woman has never been named in print, but it is stated that she was the daughter of a wealthy Norwegian family. The first reference in Munch's published correspondence in 1899 shows that at that time he was trying to free himself, although she insisted on marriage, which struck him as ridiculous.
After that, information is scanty, but the story of the bizarre conclusion of the affair has been told many times. A hoax was planned--Munch in later references usually blamed the woman and her Bohemian friends--by which she laid herself out as if on her death bed in order to bring him to her once more. Subsequently, in another attempt to hold him, she threatened to shoot herself and Munch was shot in a finger of is left hand when he tried to restrain her. In the final separation a financial settlement on Munch's part was required. The reason for this is not known, but the obligation lasted for a number of years. The payment of what he called 'blood money' to a person who did not need it was particularly odious.
Munch's disturbance over these events seems to have been slight at the time. He wrote from Berlin in March 1902 that he was getting over the economic blow and he added, 'as to the physical shock she has given me, I have completely recovered from that.' Later in the year he mentioned the wounded finger several times in ways that indicate deeper physical as well as psychic distress. From 1903 on references to his nervous state appeared in his letters. This condition may account for and certainly was increased by the other public scandals in which he became involved.
A contributing factor in all of these episodes was very probably immoderate drinking, but to account for Munch's actions it must also be assumed that he was in an overwrought and over-sensitive state where his response to real or imagined injury was violent. In 1902 at Aasgaardstrand, as the result of a quarrel that had elements of a brawl, Munch beat a man named Ditten. A more public scandal was a fight which ended in the arrest of both parties in a café in Copenhagen in 1904. The papers of that city played up the affair as disgraceful behavior of Bohemians and there was discussion in the Norwegian press as to who was to blame.
In 1905 at Aasgaardstrand Munch quarreled with the gifted young Norwegian painter Ludvig Karsten, whose portrait, now in the Thiel Gallery at Stockholm, he must have just finished painting. Again the powerful Munch was the victor, but now the aftermath must have been too much for him, for he left Norway during summer of that year, not to return until 1909. Because he could not face people whom he considered hostile--and judging from his letters he linked critics of his work with his other 'enemies'-Munch had avoided Oslo since 1904.
Now he exiled himself entirely. Fortunately his paintings were having more and more success in Germany. His first major patron had been Max Linde of Lübeck. Then for several years Weimar became the center of his life abroad. Munch had first visited that city in the winter of 1904 through Count Harry Kessler, whom he had known in the early days in Berlin and who is best known outside Germany as the patron of the sculptor Maillol. Now that he was in real difficulties his Weimar friends, Kessler and especially Frau Förster-Nietzsche, the sister of the philosopher, were important supports for him.
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