Like many of Munch's works, Vampire evokes themes of mortality and melancholy.
It depicts a black garbed man and a woman with flame red hair locked in an embrace which, once we know the title of the poem, we can interpret as being vampiric. One intriguing thing about this painting is that it is not entirely clear who the vampire is. Though many viewers immediately identify the vampire as the woman, others have believed it to be the man. Munch was a Norwegian artist and he first unveiled Vampire in 1894. When it was revealed, the painting shocked critics due to the nudity and the embrace involved. Vampire has an alternative, original, title, which is Love and Pain.
Does this shed light on the painting's meaning? Perhaps. Perhaps one figure in the painting personifies Love and another personified Pain. Or, perhaps, both are experiencing both love and pain as they are locked in their vampiric embrace. In the painting, the red haired woman is depicted kissing the man on the neck (and this is one of the things that shocked art critics in the 1890s). Some commentators have speculated that Munch here drew on his own visits to sex workers, and when questioned Munch himself said that all the painting showed was a woman kissing a man on the neck.
This simple explanation somewhat belies the richness of the painting, however, as this is a work that is filled with deep, rich hues and which has also inspired very emotional reactions in people who look at it. Vampire was first shown in Berlin in the 19th century, and when the Nazi regime came to power they denounced this and other of Munch's works as 'degenerate'. He was joined in this group by the likes of Macke, Kandinsky, Klee and Kirchner. From 1934 onwards, Vampire was held in private collections, however in 2008 it was put up for sale once more and was sold for £19 million.
As well as a painter, Munch was a printmaker. He was born in 1863 and he died in 1944. An Expressionist, he was influenced by other Expressionist painters such as Vincent Van Gogh. This Expressionism can be clearly seen in the vivid colours of Vampire which seem to have also been muted by a feeling of melancholy.
Tom Gurney in an art history expert. He received a BSc (Hons) degree from Salford University, UK, and has also studied famous artists and art movements for over 20 years. Tom has also published a number of books related to art history and continues to contribute to a number of different art websites. You can read more on Tom Gurney here.