The kissing couple is monumentally placed at the centre of the picture. The figures are considerably simplified and almost merge with one another. The motif expresses harmony, empathy and warmth.
The woodcut has been printed in black and a delicate grey-green tone from two blocks – a figure block that has been worked with gouges and a fretsaw, and a seemingly unworked background block with a vertical grain pattern. Munch was very interested in the visual effect of woodgrain and the textures it produced. In addition to being decorative elements, woodgrain and branch knots added life and movement to the picture.
There are four variations of the woodcut on this theme. The Kiss I and II were produced in 1897 and were among Munch’s earliest woodcuts. The Kiss III was created in 1898 and The Kiss IV in 1902. In each case the artist varies the nuances of the background by using different blocks that have been somewhat modified.
Munch painted this motif several times between 1892 and 1897. The version in the National Museum dates from 1892. The subject was first executed in print in an etching from 1895. Munch frequently returned to his previous motifs in order to explore them in other media. The characteristics of the various media enabled him to seek new expressive possibilities.
We do not know when the National Gallery acquired The Kiss IV.
Text: Møyfrid Tveit
From "Edvard Munch in the National Museum", Nasjonalmuseet 2008, ISBN 978-82-8154-035-54