Munch frequently repeated motifs that he found particularly interesting, some of them many times and in a range of media. He first worked with the motif seen in this print in paint in 1893. In 1896 he produced a black and white lithograph on the theme, and in 1902 he combined lithography and woodcut. Later he painted several new versions. The depiction of a red-haired woman leaning over the neck of a man kneeling in front of her has clearly erotic overtones. Is she kissing or biting him? The title Vampire can be traced back to the Polish author Stanislav Przybyszewski, one of the central figures in the circle Munch frequented in Berlin in the 1890s. It emphasises the threatening role of the woman and the painful aspect of the man’s experience of love. Not only was this a theme that interested the Berlin circle and the Christiania Bohemians, it also preoccupied Munch on account of personal experience. The picture has also been known under the title Love and Pain.
Munch was interested in the many variations that could be achieved through the manipulation of printing techniques. For this reason he often used different colours in making prints from the same block, often in unusual combinations. Vampire II is a fascinating example. Here he has combined a black and white print from a lithographic stone he had used in 1896 with coloured prints from a woodcut created in 1902. On past occasions he had cut the wood block into pieces, applied ink to each piece individually, then reassembled them (like a puzzle) before running off a print. There are several versions of Vampire II using different colours.
We do not know when the National Gallery acquired this print.
Text: Sidsel Helliesen
From "Edvard Munch in the National Museum", Nasjonalmuseet 2008, ISBN 978-82-8154-035-54