Edvard Munch - Editions & Works on Paper New York Tuesday, October 24, 2023 | Phillips

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  • "Like no other major modern painter I can think of except Edward Hopper, Munch takes aggressive pride in making subject matter as all-determining and form as strictly instrumental as possible. Everything comes to a point of impact, a shock so sudden as to short-circuit reason and so deep that it does not wear off but resonates infinitely."       —Peter Schjeldahl 1


    Much has been written about Edvard Munch’s The Kiss (Kyss, Der Kuss) showing two lovers, so desperately intertwined that their faces cannot be distinguished from one another. The woman rests her hand on her partner’s shoulder and lifts her chin to meet his mouth while he lowers himself to meet her and wraps his arm so tightly around her waist his muscle bulges slightly, his other hand lost in her hair. What initially appears to be an intimate demonstration of love and desire is dampened by the austere room surrounding them, dark and bare.


    Edvard Munch, Two Sketches for “Kiss”, 1895, Munchmuseet, Oslo. Image: © Munchmuseet

    “the struggle between man and a woman called Love.”     —Edvard Munch

    The Kiss has become an iconic characterization of passionate emotion, complicated attachment and heartbreak with torment. Munch ruminated on these two fused nude lovers first in drawings, then this etching in 1895, and then in a number of woodcuts from 1897-98 and 1902, along with the 1897 oil painting from Frieze of Life based on the etching. Here we have his first graphic exploration of the subject and also one of his first prints.


    We do not know who owned this rare impression before it appeared for sale in Frankfurt in 1929 (see provenance listing below), but it is one of only a few earliest examples printed by Carl Sabo or Ludwig Angerer in Berlin, before the Otto Felsing edition most commonly seen at auction. Gerd Woll records two copies, one in the National (Gallery) Museum, Oslo and the other in the Campbell Collection, Toronto; there appear to have been two at auction before this one, Christie’s (London), June, 1997 and Kornfeld (Bern), June, 2008 selling for $350,000.


    At the age of 22, the artist had painful relations with married actress and opera singer Fru Heiberg, or Milly Thaulow, as she was popularly called among the avant-garde. She had a reputation as a coquette and, apparently, did not take his courtship seriously. For Edvard, who grew up in a religious environment, the relations with a married woman were a violation of the strictest taboo. Munch lamented that when she took his first kiss, he was thereafter unable to be apart from her or to remove her from his mind. He felt helplessly trapped by her inconsistent, contradictory behaviors. She did not return his adoration, and the ambiguity of their relationship affronted his desire for constancy and tenderness in a woman. Munch’s unsuccessful efforts to master the trauma of his first lost love, compelled him toward a painful repetition of these experiences with other women.2 He is rumored to have depicted Fru Heiberg in several of his works and appears to repeat this compulsive attachment in The Kiss. Munch wrote extensively on his relationships with women in his diaries, many of his entries taking the form of a poem, rife with complicated and dark emotion as in the one below. The Kiss becomes a characterization of the gloom centered in mental pain of attachment and heartbreak, now among Munch’s most famous works.



    was her beauty

    and her classy

    look that captured

    me—and I said

    time could


    bind and perhaps

    shape love


    one night

    I dreamed that

    I kissed her

    I felt the

    narrow cool


    lips against mine

    —and I felt the

    cool teeth

    against my lips—

    —I have

    kissed a corpse


    such was that kiss—

    and I discovered that

    it was a dead

    face I woke up

    in fright3


    Edvard Munch, The Kiss IV, 1902, Munchmuseet, Oslo. Image: © Munchmuseet / Ove Kvavik


    Peter Schjeldahl, "Greatest Hits of Edvard Munch, in Symbolist Prints of Edvard Munch - The Vivian and David Campbell Collection, 1996, p. 52

    2 V. Y. Skryabin, A. A. Skryabina, M. V. Torrado, and E. A. Gritchina, “Edvard Munch: The Collision of Art and Mental Disorder,” Mental Health, Religion & Culture, September 2020, p. 571

    3 Edvard Munch and J. Gill Holland, The Private Journals of Edvard Munch: We Are Flames Which Pour Out of the Earth, 2005, p. 40

    • Provenance

      Ackermann & Sauerwein, Frankfurt/Main, stock catalogue no. 2, Autumn, 1929, lot 679: “…Sch. 22a, einer der frühen Drucke auf gelblichen Papier, signiert u. datiert: 'Ed. Munch 1896 avant letter No. 6'”. Von größter Seltenheit. 700 (one of the early prints on yellowish paper, signed and dated: 'Ed. Munch 1896 avant letter No. 6'”. Extremely rare)
      Private Collection, Chemnitz
      Private Collection, Southern Germany, acquired by descent
      Dorotheum, Vienna, Modern Art, May 23, 2023, lot 11
      Private Collection, New York

    • Literature

      Gerd Woll 23
      Gustrav Schiefler 22
      Sigurd Willoch 22


Der Kuss, Kyss (The Kiss) (W. 23, Sch. 22)

Etching with drypoint, burnisher and open bite, on laid paper with interlaced initials ‘JMG’ watermark, with margins.
I. 12 7/8 x 10 1/8 in. (32.7 x 25.7 cm)
S. 18 1/2 x 14 7/8 in. (47 x 37.8 cm)

Signed 'Edv Munch', dated '96' and inscribed 'N 6 avant lettre' in pencil, only a few early proofs are recorded, Wool's state a (of c), printed by Sabo or Angerer, framed.

Full Cataloguing

$150,000 - 250,000 

Contact Specialist

212 940 1220

Editions & Works on Paper

New York Auction 24-26 October 2023