On The Waves Of Love 1896
Moonlight glides across your face – which is full of all earthly pain and beauty ... As one body, we glide out upon a great sea.
The Sick Child ...
Lithograph printed in red
Sheet size: 48,7 * 62,5 cm
Subject size: 41,3 * 56,0 cm
Woll: 72, A2, C
Printed in Paris by Clot
White Wove light weight paper
“They are rocked in the embrace of life’s waves, and the woman’s smile is a smile in death.”i In Munch’s words we sense an ambivalent attitude towards love; behind the attractive facade of woman a dangerous, destructive force is concealed that breaks man down. The lithograph On the Waves of Love was first printed in Paris in 1896, in the workshop of the eminent Auguste Clot. Later in life, Munch began work on the motif again, having it printed by Lassally in Berlin and Nielsen in Kristiania.
On the Waves of Love can be seen in conjunction with the Madonna motif, which he executed both as a painting and a graphic print in 1895 (pp. 52–65). The women also have similarities. Who the model actually was for Munch’s Madonna has never been discovered. Some claim that it was Dagny Juel, married to Pryzbyszewska. Munch himself advanced a model he had for a time in Berlin, possibly an American music student. It is natural to assume that the environment in Berlin, which Dagny and Munch were both a part of, can have played a large role in deter- mining the choice of this motif. Dagny’s erotic powers of attraction were legendary and can possibly have inspired her appearance and features. But it is most probable that the artist has created a female type based on several women in his life and surroundings.
In On the Waves of Love the act of love is portrayed via the faces of the loving couple. She is resting her head backwards against the sea’s waves, her eyes are closed and her hair floats on the surface. She is naked and his head rests gently against the arch of her neck. The long tentacles of her hair stream out over the waves, spreading out into the space of the picture and binding his head to hers. A narrow black field at the top edge of the picture is decorated with stars as in a poetic nocturnal atmosphere. As in many of Munch’s other works, sea and sky meet as a background for human existence – this time in an erotic meeting between man and woman.
Munch drew the motif on the lithographic stone with lithographic ink and chalk. Certain sections are evenly covered by the black colour, but other parts have a high level of transparency, which gives the picture a blurred, sensual expression. The rhythmic lines that surround the woman make one think of Madonna. Also the woman’s blissful ex- pression, the calm lines of her mouth and the closed eyes are related in the two pictures.
Throughout his life, Munch developed his artistic themes in words and images. When he had returned to Norway in 1909, after his stay at Dr. Jacobsen’s nerve clinic in Copenhagen, he settled in Kragerø. Here he found peace of mind and a chance to recuperate. During this period, Munch worked on the project The Tree of Knowledge. Here he collected a number of texts, sketches, drawings and graphic works related to The Frieze of Life. Once again, he worked on many of the poem-like texts about the pictures. On the same sheet as a drawing, known by the title The Wave (1913), Munch has written a short poem that links the motif to his earlier texts about Madonna: “Moonlight glides over your face – full of earthly beauty and pain – Your lips are like two ruby-red snakes and full of blood like the crimson fruit – they part as if in pain, the smile of a corpse – Now the chain is linked that binds generation to generation – like a body we glide out onto a great ocean – on long waves that change colour from deep-violet to blood-red.”ii
In its collection, the Munch Museum has a rare copy of the lithograph On the Waves of Love, printed entirely in red. This can indicate that Munch found the black & white version both stronger and better able to produce the atmo- sphere and the intimate relation he wanted to communicate.