By the Deathbed (Fever) Edvard Munch Buy Art Prints Now
from Amazon

* As an Amazon Associate, and partner with Google Adsense and Ezoic, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
Email: [email protected] / Phone: +44 7429 011000

By the Death Bed (Fever) is a painting done in the Expressionism Style by Edvard Munch in the year 1893. This 60 by 80 cm pastel on unprimed cardboard depicts characters distinct in a shadowy state of bereavement.

Eyes are shut or turned away while the prone figure covered in the white sheet radiates unperceiving helplessness in her ascension to glory. Its inspiration was the death of his sister, Johanne Sophie, from tuberculosis in 1877. This work currently resides in the Munch Museum, located in Oslo, Norway. Munch once noted that the darkness brought about by his ties to illness and insanity made him feel perpetually close to death. This is of particular importance since all three themes had their role to play in this introspective piece. He minimizes the backdrop for his figures while favoring a narrow pictorial area to give his characters a stuck-in-time quality effectively. While appearing static and unfinished, the figures come together in a way that paradoxically shows the effect of loss and death on the individual psyche.

His viewpoint of using characters as a symbolic tool rather than a literal one can be felt among a few works he did around the same time. The most famous of these is The Scream, whose pastels were done in 1893 and 1895 and paintings in 1893 and 1910. Another of his works done at the same time and with the same inspiration as By The Death Bed (Fever) is the Death in the Sickroom. This was an oil painting done by him in 1895, also depicting his sister’s grave illness. Edvard Munch traveled across Europe, learning a lot from different artists. He did Naturalism with Christian Krohg and explored his psychological and emotional state, a school of thought which would ultimately lead him to make By The Deathbed (Fever), under the Bohemian way of Hans Jæger.

In his travels to Paris in 1889, he encountered the works of Paul Gauguin, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, and Vincent van Gogh. How these artists used colors to express emotion would later play a significant role in his later works. The way he used color as the vehicle for symbolism was seen in his 1891 work, Melancholy. It was regarded as the first Symbolist painting that was done by a Norwegian artist. His works were different than those of other Symbolist painters, such as Gustave Moreau, as they were of a more personal nature. He was particularly influential to the German Expressionist movement (Kirchner, Macke). They followed his philosophy that true art came about compulsively as man fulfilled the desire to open his heart.