This woodcut is one of the few works in Munch's oeuvre to depict his father, Dr. Christian Munch. A devout man, his religious faith following the death of his wife became increasingly severe. This is revealed in the following account of a dispute with his father, which prompted the making of this print:
'I happened to argue with my father one evening regarding the duration of the unbeliever's agony in hellAs I saw it, no sin was so great that God would extend the agony beyond a thousand years. But father saw it differently and claimed that the torment would last a thousand times a thousand years. I refused to give in and finally stalked out in a huff slamming the door behind me. Of course, it didn't take me long to walk off my anger, and I soon returned home to put things right with father. When I got there he had gone to his bedroom. From the door which I had opened quietly I saw him kneeling by his bed, something I had never seen him do before. I closed the door gently and went to my own room. There, restless and unable to sleep, I brought out my sketchbook and started to draw. I drew my father kneeling by his bed. The soft light on the night-stand cast a yellow glow over his night shirt. I filled in the colours. As soon as it was finished I went to bed and slept soundly.' (Edvard Munch, quoted in: The Prints of Edvard Munch: Mirror of his Life, Allen Memorial Art Museum, Ohio, 1983, p. 131-132).
Woll records a total of 25 impressions of Old Man praying and seven impressions of Woman bathing in public collections, including the present impressions printed recto and verso on one sheet.
For more information about the provenance, see lot 70.