Moonlight was one of Munch’s first coloured woodcuts. It was created in Paris in 1896. Munch began working with prints in Berlin in the autumn of 1894, initially with etchings, and after a short time, with lithographs, in both cases in black and white. But the use of colour intrigued him. In Paris he collaborated with the renowned printer Auguste Clot, together with whom he created, among other things, the lithograph The Sick Child, both in black and white and a range of colour versions. In parallel, Munch began working with woodcuts. From that point on he was not just a masterly exponent of graphic techniques, he also became a significant pioneer in the field.
For Moonlight Munch used several blocks. But rather than create a single block for each colour in the print, he cut up a single block, inking each of the pieces separately and then putting the pieces back together again (the puzzle method). He varied the colours he used in a range of prints, frequently reworking and printing from the same blocks at later times. For example, he produced a new version of Moonlight in 1902. The National Museum’s print however apparently belongs to those created in 1896. Characteristic of Munch’s woodcuts, in addition to the puzzle method, is the simplification of the formal language, the rough cuts in the blocks and the use of the woodgrain to create a surface pattern in the print. His characteristic style became influential for later generations of woodcut artists.
The motif of this print is a (mirror inverted) section of the painting Moonlight from 1893 Munch regarded repetitions of this kind as new versions. Smaller or larger differences in the cropping of the motif, form, colour and materiality added nuances to the visual statement.
It is not known when the National Gallery acquired the woodcut Moonlight.
Text: Sidsel Helliesen
From "Edvard Munch in the National Museum", Nasjonalmuseet 2008, ISBN 978-82-8154-035-54