At the Roulette Table in Monte Carlo Edvard Munch Buy Art Prints Now
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Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
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At the Roulette Table in Monte Carlo feels particularly unusual within Edvard Munch's career, where normally he would focus on the worst and rawest of emotions. Here, we see bright colour and happiness within a lively social occasion.

The artist put this painting together in 1892, at which point he would have been in his late twenties. At this stage he was still working on finding a signature style in terms of content and symbolism, and that perhaps explains how this piece came about in the earlier part of his career. The composition itself features a huge number of figures grouped around a roulette table. The positions around the table are full, forcing others to stand aside and simply watch proceedings from afar. The players all appear to be highly focused as the game takes place, with most players appearing to be middle aged or elderly men, with just a few women to be seen involved. This may have reflected the prestigious nature of this casino, being located in Monte Carlo which has always been a home for the rich and famous of Europe's elite.

It feels perhaps an unusual location for an artist to be, with most tending to be socially-minded with a tendancy to pity the poor and sympathise with their predicament. Instead, Munch chose to spend time in the company of some of the most powerful men in western Europe. During the late 19th century, women within casinos would have generally served the purpose of accompanying their husband, rather than really being encouraged to play. In most cases, the money being waged would have been generated by the male figure and he would have been careful about how it was spent. In some cases, perhaps there might be younger couples with a fairer attitude to life, but they cannot be seen within this painting.

Research into this painting and also the artist's connection to gambling has revealed some interesting details from his life. We know that he actually spent considerable time in several casinos in Monte Carlo in both 1891 and 1892. He discussed his visits within his diaries and became very keen on joining these occasions. He was excited by the strong emotions that could be found within these games of Roulette, where huge sums of money could be won or lost within a second. He was perhaps a voyeur, therefore, learning from others as he studied their expressions and behaviours. Comparisons have been made between this painting and a number of others by Gauguin, Kirchner and Degas in the way in which he creates a feeling of drama and movement within a static oil painting. Examples from them include Berlin Street Scene, Potsdam Square, Berlin and Dance Class.

At the Roulette Table in Monte Carlo in Detail Edvard Munch