The motif of The Kiss is one of the best-known and most re-worked in Munch's entire oeuvre. He first tackled the subject of a couple embracing in a drawing made in 1891-2, and subsequently translated it into drawings, paintings, woodcuts, and in the graphic media of etching, drypoint and aquatint.
The etching is the first print Munch made on the subject. It is directly based on a pencil drawing of a nude couple made in 1894-5 now in the Munch Museum, Oslo. By placing the couple in a room in front of a window overlooking a busy street it is amongst the more anecdotal of all works on the subject. Yet, by showing the couple in the nude and by blending their faces together, the image transcends the purely narrative. Their bodies intertwine while the cross-like structure of the window seems to elevate the scene to an almost sacral level.
In 1896 August Strindberg, Swedish author and friend of the artist, wrote about the motif:
'The Kiss. The fusion of two beings, the smaller of which, shaped like a carp, seems on the point of devouring the larger as is the habit of vermin, microbes, vampires and women. Alternately: Man gives, creating the illusion that woman gives in return. Man begging the favour of giving his soul, his liberty, his repose, his eternal salvation, in exchange for what? In exchange for the happiness of giving his soul, his blood, his liberty, his repose, his eternal salvation.' (A. Strindberg, 'L'Exposition d'Edvard Munch', La Revue Blanche 10, no. 76 (1 June 1896), p. 526)