In the gloomy forest, a pale woman stands before us. Her eyes are wide, her hair is loose, her bodice is open. She has been violated. Her hands are raised above her head, showing her anguish, but also her strength and triumph. In the corner of the picture, a man sits with his back to her. He is defeated and covers his face with his hands. The only connection between them after the dark deed is her long, red hair.
"Our love was a pile of ashes on the ground," Munch wrote on a lithograph of this scene. This gives meaning to both the title and the stylized tree trunk in front of the man. The picture is full of contrasts and tension in its color and form: open and closed shapes, straight and curved lines, and dark and light colors.
This painting may be Munch's most cynical view of male-female relationships. It portrays the man as weak and pathetic, while the woman is powerful and victorious. Munch captures both his personal experience and the complex contemporary image of a woman: "The woman who is a saint - a whore - and sadly devoted."
Ashes - A painting by Edvard Munch
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