Related themes

Modern Landscapes

Discover groundbreaking techniques in early modern landscape paintings.

Melancholy III (Melankoli III)

Edvard Munch
(Norwegian, 1863–1944)

1902. Woodcut with gouache additions, composition: 14 3/4 x 18 9/16" (37.5 x 47.2 cm); sheet: 20 1/2 x 25 7/8" (52 x 65.8 cm)

Norwegian painter, printmaker, and draftsman Edvard Munch drew from his own life to make work examining what he called, “the modern life of the soul,” encompassing such universal human experiences as birth, innocence, love, sexual passion, melancholy, anger, jealousy, despair, anxiety, illness, and death. In Melancholy III (Melankoli III), the entire seaside landscape becomes an expression of Munch’s mood, and the pensive foreground figure seems embedded into his surroundings.

Munch believed that conveying emotion was more important than making naturalistic images of the world. As he wrote, “Nature is not something that can be seen by the eye alone—it lies also within the soul, in pictures seen by the inner eye.” Ultimately, painting became a kind of religious endeavor for him, a means through which he hoped to “understand the meaning of life [and] help others gain an understanding of their lives.”1

Edvard Munch, quoted in Edvard Munch: The Modern Life of the Soul brochure, The Museum of Modern Art, 2006,

One who applies paint to canvas, wood, paper, or another support to produce a picture.

A representation of a person or thing in a work of art.

A work of art made from paint applied to canvas, wood, paper, or another support (noun).

Faithful adherence to nature; factual or realistic representation.

A representation of a human or animal form in a work of art.

A printmaking technique that involves printing an image from a carved plank of wood. The image is cut into the wood using tools such as chisels, gouges, and knives. Raised areas of the image are inked and printed, while cut away or recessed areas do not receive ink and appear blank on the printed paper. Woodcuts can be printed on a press or by hand, using a spoon or similar tool to rub the back of the paper.

The method with which an artist, writer, performer, athlete, or other producer employs technical skills or materials to achieve a finished product or endeavor.

A state of mind or emotion, a pervading impression.

Modern can mean related to current times, but it can also indicate a relationship to a particular set of ideas that, at the time of their development, were new or even experimental.

A printmaking technique that involves drawing with greasy crayons or a liquid called tusche, on a polished slab of limestone; aluminum plates, which are less cumbersome to handle, may also be used. The term is derived from the Greek words for stone (litho) and drawing (graph). When the greasy image is ready to be printed, a chemical mixture is applied across the surface of the stone or plate in order to securely bond it. This surface is then dampened with water, which adheres only to the blank, non-greasy areas. Oily printer’s ink, applied with a roller, sticks to the greasy imagery and not to areas protected by the film of water. Damp paper is placed on top of this surface and run through a press to transfer the image. In addition to the traditional method described here, other types of lithography include offset lithography, photolithography, and transfer lithography.

A long mark or stroke.

The natural landforms of a region; also, an image that has natural scenery as its primary focus.

The area of an image—usually a photograph, drawing, or painting—that appears closest to the viewer.

A facial aspect indicating an emotion; also, the means by which an artist communicates ideas and emotions.

A person who draws plans or designs, often of structures to be built; a person who draws skillfully, especially an artist.

Variations of Melancholy
Edvard Munch made his first woodcuts and lithographs in 1896. He mastered an innovative technique in which he used the wood grain to emphasize his own lines. Using this technique, he created a number of related woodcuts on the theme of melancholy, including Evening. Melancholy I (1896), in which the brooding figure sits facing right, under an imposing crimson sky.


AUDIO: Learn more about how Edvard Munch infused landscapes with emotion