Jealousy I 1896
A mysterious look, of jealousy – In these two bulging eyes are concentrated as in a crystal many reflections – His look is questioning interestedly full of hate and love an essence of her whom they all share
Vampire II 1895...
Lithograph and woodcut
Sheet size: 47,4 * 64,7 cm
Subject size: 38,8 * 55,9 cm
Woll: 41, VI
Printed in Berlin by Lassally
Light brown cardboard
As Munch was gradually developing his poem about love and life, jealousy made its entrance. Despite the struggle of the 1880s for free love, jealousy was no unfamiliar emotion to the Kristiania bohemian either. Munch himself was assailed by it when he suspected his first love, Milly Thaulow, a married woman, for having another lover beside himself. Among the six paintings that were to be Munch’s lead-up to The Frieze of Life, Studies for a Series: Love, shown in Berlin in December 1893, we find a picture with the title Jealousy. Later, this painting was exhibited with the title Evening, and today it is known by the title Melancholy (ill. 19, p. 25)i. This picture is often interpreted as a presen- tation of the jealousy of his friend Jappe Nielsen, or of his despair when his own love for the bohemian queen Oda Krohg was sorely put to the test. In the picture, it is Jappe’s resigned posture we can see in the foreground; on the jetty in the background Oda is on her way to the boat with her husband Christian Krohg. Some years later, Hans Jæger, the leading figure of the Kristiania bohemians wrote about his love of Oda Krohg, also this time in a domestic triangle that included Christian Krohg, in the extremely revealing and candid work Sick Love (1893).
A large number of sketches and drafts resulted in the painting we now know as Jealousy. It was painted in Berlin in 1895, during the time when he was among the intellectual clique of the city that used to frequent the wine bar Zum schwarzen Ferkel. The female centre of attraction of this circle was the modern, emancipated Dagny Juell, who had come to the city in 1893 to study music. After just a few months, she married one of Munch’s friends and the leading figure of the circle, the German-Polish writer Stanislaw Przybyszewski. Many of the men in the group felt attracted by her – including Munch himself and August Strindberg.
The domestic triangles that were in the offing may have inspired Munch to use the motif. The person portrayed displays likenesses with Przybyszewski, who is shown here en face and pushed right forward in the picture surface. The face with the staring eyes is surrounded by a dark surface. Munch wrote about the motif: “A mysterious gaze, that of the jealous man – in these two gimlet eyes, as in a crystal, many reflected images are concentrated – The gaze is enquiring, interested, hateful and full of love – the quintessence of the woman all of them have in common.”ii The basis for his jealousy and dark thoughts, as enacted in his mind, is made clear in the right-hand section of the picture. A lightly clad woman is openly flirting with a male figure – Dagny and Munch?
Both Strindberg and Przybyszewski mentioned Munch’s picture, and the latter dealt with the theme in his own literary works, such as The Vigil (1893) and Overboard (1896). When Munch exhibited the picture in Paris in 1896, Strindberg wrote the following: “Jealousy, the sacred awareness that one’s soul is one’s own, that it abhors being mingled with another man by woman’s agency. Jealousy, a legitimate egoism, born of the instinct to preserve the self and the race. The jealous man says to his rival: ‘Away with you, worthless fellow; you will warm yourself at fires I have kindled; you will inhale my breath from her lips; you will suck my blood and remain my slave, for you will be ruled by my spirit through this woman, who has become your master.’”iii
The painting now known as Jealousy was exhibited for the first time in Berlin in 1895. When Munch the following year had established himself at the printing workshop of Auguste Clot in Paris, this became one of the motifs he chose to develop further in two closely related lithographs: Jealousy I and Jealousy II. Both are represented in the present collection. Executed in lithographic chalk and the more fully covering lithographic ink, Jealousy I shows a close-up and section of Jealousy II. The fine threads of the woman’s hair in Jealousy II, and certain places in both pictures, have been scratched into the stone with a needle or a scraper. Both lithographs have been printed in black, and it is the stark black-white contrasts that bring out the mental torment of the main figure.
The pictures have been printed on white paper with a texture that allows the black to appear to be deep black and almost silky smooth, similar to the expression in Self-portrait with Skeleton Arm (pp. 44–47).
Munch has added some hand-colouring to the Jealousy I in this collection. The fruit tree, for example, by the flirting couple in the background has green foliage and its tempting, ripe fruit is red. In this way, Munch emphasises this element of the picture, directing the thoughts of the onlooker towards the story of Adam and Eve and the forbidden fruit. Jealousy also lies lurking in the enjoyment of the fruit of love. This would seem to be a theme the universality of which will prevent it from ever playing out its role.
In Jealousy II “the flower of pain“ is growing in the right of the picture: The symbol of the artist’s creative force arrived at through suffering and pain. This flower features in many of Munch’s pictures that have to do with the inner life of the modern individual.