Wallraf-Richartz-Museum & Fondation Corboud


Edvard Munch
Four Girls on the Bridge
, 1905

The beholder of this picture may well be seized by a feeling of alienation and perhaps also fear, because it is unfathomable and talks in riddles. One could of course also describe it in quite friendly terms. What we have is a bridge, in the popular Norwegian resort of Aasgaardstrand on the Oslofjord. Four girls are standing by the balustrade, one wearing a bright and cheerful yellow straw hat. It is obviously summer, which in Norway is a short season, but one which the people enjoy all the more for that.

And yet it is difficult to work up a cheerful mood. The composition and palette simply will not allow it. The jetty, in defamiliarized pink, and painted with red and blue stripes, leads wedgelike and in steep perspective towards the shore. The trees come across as blackish-green flat shapes with solid outlines. The sky is turquoise, the wan moon hangs low above the horizon and in the still, deep water is reflected the dark-violet crown of the largest tree. Everything taken together creates the impression of an unreal, nightmarish scene. The girls are standing close together as if seeking protection in their very closeness. In fact it is only through the strong colours of their dresses that we can tell them apart.

Munch confronted this motif over many years and painted it in a number of versions. While the composition is based on the topographical location of his country cottage, the strong colours, sketchy forms and the puzzling nature of the figures make the picture look less like a representation of the external world than a depiction of psychological states and processes. His art was always determined by his interest in giving visible form to emotional states and borderline human situations, an interest which is also apparent in his numerous portraits.

Edvard Munch (Løten 1863 – 1944 Ekely/Oslo): Girls on a Pier, 1905. Oil on canvas, 126 x 126 cm. Acquired in 1949 as a gift from Cologne art-lovers. WRM 2816. Photo: Rheinisches Bildarchiv Köln

Edvard Munch
Løten 1863 – 1944 Ekely/Oslo

Four Girls on the Bridge
1905, Oil on canvas, 126 x 126 cm
Acquired in 1949 as a gift from Cologne art-lovers
Inv. no. WRM 2816
Photo: Rheinisches Bildarchiv Köln