Munch called the self-portrait painted in Weimar in 1906 a self-examination. The intensity of his worried state appears in the agitation of his features--pursed lips, one eyebrow raised while the gaze seems fixed. The forms of the painting are designed to concentrate the spectator's attention on these features and secondarily to represent the subject's lonely isolation in the almost empty restaurant. Again the position from which the view is taken establishes the expressive relations of the forms in a single focus.
The vanishing-point of the perspective is behind the head with the spectator's position close to the foreground; the lines of the tables converge sharply, emphasizing the figure's closeness and leading the eye to the face. The distance of the background is diminished by the dull red square on the green wall which frames the head. In fact the play of reds and greens in the figure as opposed to the violet and orange of the tables and the shadows--an insistent repetition of near-complementaries--seems to be calculated to produce an effect of agitation in accord with that of the features.
Munch's inner discomfort may very well have been a compelling reason for the very pronounced efforts he made during these years to affirm values in experience outside himself. His increasing emphasis on rendering effects of light and texture is particularly evident in a series of paintings of nudes of 1906 and 1907. There is considerable difference in the way Munch studies these nudes. Those of 1906 are seen quite objectively in the setting of the bedroom. Others, in the following year, although in several cases painted in the same setting, stress the mood of the model, which is conveyed by her bowed head. The motive seems to be an extreme of feminine shyness, and perhaps an older, non-professional model gave the suggestion. With either type of nude, however, Munch was concerned with what he saw and felt in his model, not with himself.
During his year at Warnemünde Munch succeeded in going beyond these studies and established a new and affirmative position in his conception of subject as well. His main effort was in paintings of the motive of bathing men. Bathers had been subjects for Munch before but in the sense of the everyday life of the seashore. His Warnemünde bathers are in the form of a triptych, at the left a youth, in the center mature men and at the right an old man. The subject of the ages of man is analogous to the theme of the paintings of women of six years before, but the genre character of everyday life is gone and the emphasis is on the virile dignity of the nude bathers.
The composition of horizontals and verticals and the controlled but vigorous movement of the men of the central canvas, as Langaard has pointed out, create a balance in the painting. The painting is in broad areas of colors, complementary yellows and lavenders, and browns and purples, to give the effect of brilliant sunlight. Another kind of balance is in the relation of the figures to this brilliant nature: these men stand self-sufficient in their own strength, a rejection of the dominance of humans by nature's moods of the earlier periods. Munch attached importance to this work. He wished it hung in the most prominent place in the Oslo exhibition of 1909 and when the original triptych had been sold he painted again the central and left panels, for which, apparently, no complete study had been made.
A second motive found at Warnemünde was not developed as completely at that time, although it was one which became important to Munch later. This is the working man as a subject. Later we know Munch regarded workers as the most important social force of his time. Now he represents them in his manner of picturing ordinary experience while characteristically stressing the types--the mechanic in his dark clothes and the mason in white.
One of Munch's works made while he was in the Copenhagen sanitarium can be looked on as another and significant step in the process of mastering himself, the series of eighteen lithographs telling a parable, under the title of Alpha and Omega, of man and woman, but now 'in fun and earnest', as Munch wrote himself. The first idea came while he was at Warnemünde in a series of drawings of the first humans. The significant thing as it was carried out in lithography is that, though the pessimistic theme is the familiar one for Munch, it can be approached with sufficient detachment to permit a note of ironic self-ridicule.
The story is simple: Alpha is the man and Omega the woman; the scene is a terrestrial paradise. After the first happiness, the woman directs her unsatisfied love to the animals--in earlier lithographs Munch had caricatured his rivals and 'enemies' as animals. The irony and the pathos lie in Alpha's ridiculous efforts to recapture her affections. His efforts are bound to fail and he cannot understand why. Omega is obeying nature and when she embraces the animals and kisses flowers she is more a part of the forces of life than the man can ever be. In the end, though he slays the faithless woman, he in turn is killed by her progeny, the monstrous children begotten by the beasts.
Munch made two major paintings at this time, the self-portrait in the Rasmus Meyer Collection and the portrait of his doctor, Professor Jacobson. Portraiture, of which he had done much since 1900, was of course one type of work in which objectivity was a necessity. It is evident that Munch looked at his psychiatrist with at least as sharp an eye as that with which the patient was regarded. In a rich painting of warm reds and browns and purples the doctor is rendered as full of suppressed excitement, alert and voluble, but intelligent, a type very far from that of the detached and patient scientist. Jacobson has been characterized by one who remembers him as a strange man in whom there was the scientist, the artist and, perhaps, something of the poseur.
When he returned to Norway and was living at Kragerø, Munch painted portraits of the friends who had stood by him so loyally when they came to visit him, and those of Jappe Nilssen, Jens Thiis, and Thorvald Stang are outstanding. He also painted the rocky coast and the sea, the Norwegian nature to which he had so often referred with longing when he wrote from abroad. These Kragerø landscapes of 1910-12 are the most faithful, straightforward studies of nature of Munch's mature career.
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