Works like Vampire II and Madonna (an impression of which is being offered in the Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Sale, November 3rd) showcase the experimental genius of Munch, who explored new ways to heighten the emotional impact of his subjects. Since he began the work in 1895 and periodically reprinted impressions in different combinations, each work should be considered in relation to other variations.
The earliest impressions of Vampire II, dated 1895, were only in black. As with his other master graphics, the artist sought to execute the work in color as well. By 1902, he began to explore the use of multiple matrices (plates for printing). Munch used combinations of sawed-woodblocks and an additional lithographic stone. By 1913, he settled on the final color combination; however, he would continue to experiment with media and the sequence of printing.
To create the present work--printed circa 1913-14--Munch ran the woodblock through the press to print the green background, dark blue encapsulating aura, and ochre-colored flesh. On close inspection, the horizontal wood grain can be detected in the printing. Next Munch added a supplementary lithographic stone to color the fiery red hair strands that seem to consume the man. Finally, he printed the keystone with the figures in black to complete the composition.
Considering the range of variations, this is an excellent impression. Due to the complex printing, many impressions were not properly registered (aligned for printing) and had to be touched in. This impression is well aligned. In addition, the plates were richly inked to create lush layers of color. Munch used a fine sheet of Japon paper to further draw out the vibrant red and deep blue and green inks. Ultimately, Munch's macabre vision of love is a crowning achievement in his graphic oeuvre.