'He sat with his arm around her body. Her head was so near to him. It seemed so remarkable to have her eyes, her mouth, her breasts so near to him.
And he laid his head between her breasts. He felt her blood stream through her veins. He listened to the beat of her heart. He buried his face in her lap. She lowered her head down on him and he felt two warm, burning lips on his neck. A shudder passed through his body, a shudder of voluptuousness. And he pressed her compulsively to him.'
Edvard Munch, MS, MM T 2771, cited in Reinhold Heller, Munch: His Life and Work, Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 1984, p.129
Vampyr is one of the most technically complex and artistically important motifs in the artist's entire oeuvre. First executed in oil, as part of Munch's Frieze of Life, the image was initially entitled Love and Pain. The title by which it has come to be known was subsequently applied not by the artist, but his perceptive critic Stanislaw Przybyszewski, who saw it exhibited in 1893. Its importance can be gauged by the fact that it was hung as a pendant to his iconic Madonna.
Whilst the earliest versions, dating from 1895, were executed in black and white it is clear that Munch always saw this as a colour work. He spent seven years developing his ideas, applying gouache and watercolour to a range of monochrome impressions until, in 1902, he concluded his investigations with a period of intense experimentation with both woodblocks and lithographic stones:
'...the artist ceaselessly experimented with the order in which he printed the stones and the block sections. The result was a constantly shifting image, one in which the artist manipulated the different areas in order to alter the appearance and meaning of the scene....Though each impression stands on its own, representing a different facet of Symbolist meaning, ideally one would view them all together, not unlike Claude Monet's series paintings of haystacks or the façade of Rouen Cathedral. The Vampyre images exhibit the extraordinary scope of Munch's technical creativity and remain endlessly suggestive.'
Elizabeth Prelinger and Michael Parke-Taylor, The Symbolist Prints of Edvard Munch, Yale University Press, New Haven and London, 1996, p.111.