Madonna by Edvard Munch (CATS critical analysis)

5 Feb

Madonna, (1894), Edvard Munch, oil painting

Madonna by Norweigen expressionist Edvard Munch, as the title implies, depicts Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ. Sigrun Rafter, an art historian at the Oslo National Gallery suggests that Munch intended to represent Mary in the act of intercourse, with “the sanctity and sensuality of the union captured by Munch.” Although others believe it is that of a mature women.  Traditionally in Western culture the body is associated soley with women, where as with men it is the mind, this viewpoint is evident in this painting with this theory serving as justification to deem women as property or objects. Munch inhabits the role of the male artist; He is the creater of the painting with his thoughts and views being at the epicentre.

In this interpretation of Mary, we discover no facts about Mary, she is defined only in context to her sexualism and objectivity. There are no clues to her social class, martial status or identity; Munch haunting apparition examines feminity and the power men have to identify women according to their sexual prowess. The swirling contours denote an absense of reality and an entry into the imagined, subjective expressionism. Munch himself reinforces the ‘male view’ of women and displays the conventional roles which are subscribed to this position in The Madonna. The viewers initial interpretation of the painting will be that of man who is having sexual intercourse with her.  The unusual pose being taken by the women, embdoies some elements of virginity; she has a quiet yet confident disposition.

This floating transitional state of Madonna counters somewhat the  immediacy of the young woman’s body suggesting elusiveness and the ability for women to be seductresses. Madonnas sexuality is exaggerated through the use of her semi-naked body and open and inviting pose; Her eyes are closed, expressing modesty. Her body is visable, twisting towards the light so as to catch more of it, although she does not face the light. This erotic nude appears to float in a dreamlike space, with swirling strokes of deep black almost enveloping her. The typical golden halo Mary has been replaced with a red halo symbolising love, passion and pain. These elements reinforce the ‘male view of women’ and convey power and objectivity towards women.

Munch hand painted The Madonna using oil paints, carefully constructing the painting. Madonna can be rendered to her construction, Munch has shown considerable effort in producing an artwork that he belives parallels the beauty drived from the woman. Munch painted five variations of The Madonna between 1894 and 1895 exploring the psychological angles of the women in the painting, with his later paintings includes an embreyo in the corner of the painting.  This painting itself explores Munchs conflicting view of women being seductress as well as the givers of life.



The Museum of Modern Art, 2010 [available at]

Sedef’s corner, 9th May 2011 [available at]

Edvard Munch Art History, 2011, [available at]


One Response to “Madonna by Edvard Munch (CATS critical analysis)”

  1. Hugo April 19, 2013 at 8:58 am #

    It was a amazing post as always good friend

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