Sometimes known only as Spinx, the work depicts a swirling and formless setting, with a stream of running water and a dark, dense natural background that harks back to some of Munch's other works. Many critics also see The Three Stages of Woman (Sphinx) as the starting point for Munch's later work, The Dance of Life. This painting by Edvard Munch moves from light to dark and is painted in three distinct sections that then seamlessly bleed into one another. The young maiden is depicted on the left hand side of the painting, with flowing golden hair, her face turned upwards towards the sun, her feet stood in the yellow waters of the stream that is carrying her forwards.
The centre of the painting shows a woman, fully nude, who is relaxed and displaying her mature womanliness unabashed, with one foot pointed towards the maiden and the other towards the darkness. Just behind her and moving across to the right hand side of the painting stands a third women who is almost completely hidden by the darkness, except for her face which echoes a skull, with a pale and ashen complexion and deep dark black circles around her eyes. A tree trunk divides these three women from a fourth figure, barely perceivable, whose face again is made to look like a skull. Below this fourth figure, who is cited simply as Man, is a large daub of red paint, which some critics have cited as being a theme of jealousy, from one women to another as to the passing of time and the cruel cycle that sees youth give way to aging.
Other critics see this quite simply as a symbol for blood and that all life must end. The Three Stages of Woman (Sphinx) by Edvard Munch is provocative and thought-provoking, rich with the power of Symbolism the Munch is so famous for. The relationships between women and men occupy much of Munch's works and would later be explored in a similar way by Gustav Klimt, in his work The Three Ages of Woman. This artwork by Edvard Munch is currently on display as part of the Rasmus Meyer Collection in Bergen, Norway.