Space was a matter of major concern in the landscapes of the twenties, but its character was determined by the manner in which stationary objects were perceived. Animation of the space was still an aim, but the methods used to attain it were often the opposite of those used in the paintings just discussed. Instead of relations worked out from one focal point, a more natural vision which perceives near objects in relation to far objects was the basis. This was not a return to the abrupt shifts in the angle of vision of the paintings of 1900 and 1906; rather the aim was to create a continuous effect of space, which occasionally also recalls that of Van Gogh.
The Landscape with a Starry Sky of 1923 is the view from the porch of his house at Ekely. The railings of the steps and the shadow are large in scale as if seen very close, a demarcation of the immediate foreground which serves to project the eye into space. From this the movement goes back through a series of expanding arcs to the final distance of the horizon beyond the lights.
The strong and somber accents in the foreground and the pale blue and green winter sky create a dramatic mood that is very characteristic of Munch. This quality, and perhaps a remark of Munch's, has supplied a literary title. The landscape is sometimes called 'John Gabriel Borkman' because the wood in the painting suggests the setting of the last act of Ibsen's play, the snowy hillside with the wood where Borkman died.
In paintings in the twenties, where the stress is on the exploitation of sensations of color and texture as at no earlier time, associations with specific ideas still persist. There is a series of paintings of a model in the nude in different poses done in the middle of the decade where the canvases have titles of the times of day. There is almost nothing in the way they are painted to justify this, although there is evidence that they were intended to be seen together. Munch's habits of thought invited titles for pictures and it is said that he welcomed suggestions from his friends.
In paintings of nudes Munch, with a few possible exceptions in his work before 1907, never is interested in painting externals as if a nude were simply another motive on the same level as other things that the eye sees. To a greater or a less degree the emphasis is on the emotions of the subject. The Nude of 1926 is the extreme case where the inner sensitivity of the woman is stressed. This quality has invoked a title, The Gothic Girl, which, incidentally, is also attached to other females painted at this time. At the other end of the scale is the Model on the Sofa, rich in the painting of color and reflected lights where the physical and the external dominate, but where the revelation of a mood peculiarly feminine is not entirely lacking.
The Nude by the Armchair, painted in the last year of the decade, is the final and richest stage of the interest in sensuous effects of color and light. The bowed head gives the hint of the self-consciousness of a girl, which insures that the spectator feels her existence as a living and feeling being. Indeed the theme of the painting is the relation of the living flesh of the model to the room and its inanimate objects, a motive which was begun in the nudes of 1907 in which the model likewise has her head bowed.
The delicate play of reflected lights on the nude body--from cool to warm tones above and the reverse below the waist where the influence of the reds of the chair is felt--is opposed to the more definite tones of the objects and the room itself. The drama is in the sensations themselves and the composition is contrived to bring it out. The nude fills the canvas from top to bottom and is turned slightly, so that as the eye explores the space of the picture it moves from the surface of her body to the richly colored chair and into the space beyond.
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