"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 (Manuscript T2771, Munch Museum)
Edvard Munch's technically complex and artistically important Vampyr II occupies no greater place in his oeuvre than alongside his celebrated Madonna and The Scream. Originally known as Love and Pain, Munch's first execution of Vampire, a painting in oil was envisioned by the artist himself as a pendant to Madonna and formed part of his larger Love series. The title by which it has since come to be known was coined by Munch's critic-friend Stanislaw Przybyszewski, who in 1893 saw the painting on exhibition. He described it as "a man who has become submissive, and on his neck a biting vampire's face."
As was common with Munch's experimental genius and tireless spirit, he reworked many paintings in print, including Vampire. As early as 1895, the same year that he pulled his first impressions of Madonna and The Scream (also after the paintings), Munch printed his earliest monochromatic lithographs of Vampyr. In these developing years as a printmaker, Munch worked with and learned much from the esteemed printer Auguste Clot, who printed these first versions in 1895 and presumably 1896 in his Paris workshop. His close association with Clot undoubtedly provided Munch the confidence to progress from black and gray lithographs to the varied and complex printmaking that culminated in Vampyr II seven years later.
To create the present work--printed as early as circa 1902--Munch ran three individually cut-and-inked woodblocks through the press simultaneously in order to register the background a rich green, the encapsulating aura a dark blue, and the flesh ochre colored. Upon close inspection, the horizontal wood grain can be detected in the printing, even across the separate woodblocks. Munch next added a supplementary lithographic stone to color the fiery red tresses of hair that nearly consume her companion. Finally, he printed the lithographic keystone with the figures in black to complete the composition.
This culminated in his most colorful and emotionally-charged print of the time and remains still his most mysterious and macabre vision of love, whose pictorial quality rivals that of even his paintings.