A finely tuned interplay of contrasts is one of the defining features of this evocative painting. Intense, cool moonlight falls on a picket fence and a window frame behind the woman in the foreground, while also illuminating her pale face. The rest of the woman’s figure, together with the shadow on the wall and the garden, lies in muffled obscurity. Here we find shapes with concise, undulating contours that stand in contrast with the rhythmically patterned, rectangular forms of the fence and the house. Set against these flat, frontal elements, the woman’s shadow and the sections of fence and wall create an element of depth in the composition. But the visual components are not in themselves what matter most; the concise, underlying mood is one of loneliness, yearning and angst.
Munch painted this picture in summer 1893 at Åsgårdstrand, where he also painted The Voice (now in the Munch Museum), which tackles a related theme. Three years later he returned to this motif in a woodcut.
The painting was purchased for the National Gallery in 1938 with funds donated by Olaf Schou, with a contribution from Marit Nørregaard.
Text: Sidsel Helliesen
From "Edvard Munch in the National Museum", Nasjonalmuseet 2008, ISBN 978-82-8154-035-54