In the portrait of Edvard Munch’s sister Inger we see a young woman standing face on, erect and monumental. Her expression is controlled yet guarded, her posture constrained, her gaze thoughtful and introverted. Her hands are folded and her hair is tied back away from her pale face. The impression of chaste modesty is reinforced by the high black collar of her dress, tightly clasping her neck.
Inger Munch stands in front of a cool blue-grey wall that seems to form a vacuum around her, thus underlining the impression of isolation. At the same time the colour of the floor on which she is standing is warm and earthy. This surprising colour contrast creates a complex statement that alternates between the ethereal and the earthbound.
Edvard Munch is well known for the psychological depth he gives to personal characteristics. This portrait of his sister is one of his first monumental full-length portraits. Here he follows a long art historical tradition. In his portraits, Munch concentrates on the essential element of the model. He often places his figures against empty or only very sparsely furnished rooms, allowing their personality to be conveyed by their posture, eyes, face and hands, together with the expressive qualities of the colours employed.
This picture was purchased for the National Gallery in 1899.
Text: Nina Denney Ness
From "Edvard Munch in the National Museum", Nasjonalmuseet 2008, ISBN 978-82-8154-035-54