The oil canvas painting of a bare-breasted woman is believed to be an erotic rendition of the Virgin Mary and was completed between 1892 and 1895. Originally titled Loving Woman, the work depicts a nude woman in a sexually provocative pose.
The nude female has her eyes closed in ecstatic sexuality, with her torso twisting sensually. Her arms are behind her back indicating vulnerability, even the surrender of her body.
Unlike the golden halo so typical of traditional representations of a wholesome Madonna, the woman in this oil painting has a garish red halo around her head and ethereal light around her body.
The use of shadow and rings of color intensifies the sexuality of the painting. Madonna symbolises sexuality and subjugation that is continued in different versions of the work, including lithographic versions of the painting.
In the lithographic print of Madonna, dated 1895–1902, a line of wriggling sperm form a decorative border, with a fetus in its bottom left corner.
The vampish, fleshy portrayal of the virgin mother is a symbol of what Munch considered the feminine role of sexual intercourse, procreation, child bearing, and death. His later works were more symbolist in nature, depicting real yet abstract concepts of mind and emotion than actual form and detail.
Edvard Munch is perhaps best noted for his famous painting The Scream (1893), a painting that conveyed shock and anxiety at a very basic level. The impact on the viewer is immediate and intense.
Other oil on canvass paintings are The Dance of Life (1899 - 1900) and Ashes completed in 1894. Munch was influenced by the works of Vincent van Gogh, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and Paul Gauguin.
He was particularly fascinated by their use brush strokes and color to express emotion in their art. Munch was born on 12 December, 1863, Ådalsbruk, Løten, Norway and died in Oslo, on 23 January, 1944. He was 80 years old when he died. The Munch Museum in Toyen, Oslo, holds roughly 23,600 pieces of his artwork, the widest collection of his works in the world.
Madonna is one of his many works that reflects his anxieties about woman, love and sex. He was loath to part with his paintings because of their intense personal nature and he viewed them as an indivisible, single body of expression.