Munch was deeply attached to the seaside village of Asgardstrand, on the Christiana fjord north of the capital, where he owned a small house. The pier that extended outward from the town along with the large house belonging to the Kojsterud family and the looming linden tree beside it, appeared in a great number of the artist's pictures, including a painting from 1899, an etching from 1903 (W. 232), a rough woodcut from 1905 (W. 271) and, having recovered successfully from the emotional collapse he suffered 1908-09, in a lithograph (W. 416) from 1912-13. His final and most significant treatment of the subject however, is the present work, dating from 1918-20.
Three figures standing close together in a unified group, gaze over the railing at the water. None of their faces are visible. They huddle together as if threatened by the looming linden tree and its reflection. The rigid vertical and diagonal striations - a departure from the art nouveau lines of such related compositions as The Scream (W. 38) and Angst (W. 63) seem to lock the figures into a kind of paralyzing lethargy, while the extension of the pier into the village oddly dissolves at the left edge of the picture. The decorative patterns created by the varied marks of the gouging produce a nuanced and animated composition.
Several monochrome impressions are known, but it is clear that Munch intended this to be a color image. The present work is thought to be a template upon which he explored its effect as it is one of only two recorded examples where the colors are exclusively in watercolor (the other being in the Munch Museum, Oslo, (MM 647-11)). It served as the basis for subsequent impressions which were colored, often very deceptively, with a combination of lithographic plates and occasionally stencils, as well as variants in which the woodblock was printed in blue.
'One can argue that, aware of the appeal that a picture of a specific locale would have, Munch - a skillful businessman - concluded that [a] colorful interpretation...would become the version most likely to attract buyers. Yet one wonders then why he ultimately pulled such a relatively small number of impressions of this motif; fewer than thirty-five have been recorded.' (Edvard Munch, Master Prints, Elizabeth Prelinger and Andrew Robison, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 2010. pp. 103.)