One of the most anticipated works that will be offered in the upcoming Impressionist & Modern Art Evening auction is undoubtedly Edvard Munch’s Pikene på broen (The Girls on the Bridge), a 1902 canvas that captures all of the hallmarks of the Norwegian master’s genius – bold colour, sharp perspective, sinuous line, and of course existential angst. It is difficult to overestimate Munch’s impact on the artistic developments of the 20th century. Indeed his hand can be seen in Expressionism, Fauvism and even Pop art.
Girls on a Bridge, one of Munch's most widely popular and acclaimed motifs, was painted during one of the most turbulent periods of his life. The image of a cluster of young women, huddled in a secretive mass between two points of land, resonates with explosive tension. Like van Gogh and Gauguin before him and the Expressionists after him, Munch often uses color not for naturalistic description but to convey authenticity of feeling. Understanding the world as a place of agitation and stress, Munch makes that vision literal; the emotional states that concern Munch are often disruptive – anxiety, jealousy – but he also knows quieter moods, like melancholy and loneliness.
“No longer shall I paint interiors and people reading, and women knitting. I shall paint living people who breathe and feel and suffer and love – I shall paint a number of pictures of this kind. People will understand the sacredness of it, and will take off their hats as though they were in church.”
The motif and composition of Girls on a Bridge will certainly recall Munch’s masterpiece, The Scream, which made auction history when it sold at Sotheby’s in May 2012 for $119,922,500. The iconic work is one of the most instantly recognisable images in both art history and popular culture. The market for Munch has been robust at Sotheby’s which owns nine of the top ten prices at auction.