“He struggles hard. Good luck with your struggles, lonely Norwegian”.
This exquisite drawing depicts the same motif as featured in Edvard Munch’s oil painting of the same title, residing in the permanent collection of the Thielska Gallery, Stockholm (fig. 1). In the past, the drawing has been incorrectly dated to 1920, but as the experts at the Munch Museum emphasise, this was a motif that preoccupied the artist at the beginning of the Twentieth Century and both painting and drawing must therefore be dated to 1903.
This period of Munch’s life was turbulent. His father had died in 1889, leaving the family destitute; Munch observed at this point that he lived with the dead, preoccupied with the memories of his deceased parents, grandfather and sister. In 1894, his drinking companion Danish artist Holger Drachmann wrote: “He struggles hard. Good luck with your struggles, lonely Norwegian”. J. Gill Holland (ed.), Edvard Munch, London, 2005, p. 7.
Women on the Bridge takes the stages of a young woman's development from adolescence to maturity as its principal theme, and relates closely to Munch’s Frieze of Life paintings - a series of compositions dealing with themes of love, illness and death. Munch has emphasised the centrality of the women to the composition with a bold and assertive contour, while their unshaded forms suggests their as-yet undefined statuses; their physical situation between two points of land is a further visual metaphor for their transitional stage in life. With his trademark expressive and exquisite draftsmanship, Munch powerfully explores the experience of sexual awakening.