Broken hearts may be healed over time, but some may last for a lifetime. Norwegian painter Edvard Munch had stayed single for the rest of his life after three failed love affairs. This painting features the painter himself as well as his last love and fiancée Tulla Larsen. The two look rather depressed for a loving couple and the painting itself is divided vertically. What did happen to this pair?
Munch met Larsen from a wealthy upper-class family in 1898 for the first time. He was 35 and she was four years older than him. It was Munch who fell in love at first, but the dynamic of the relationship quickly reversed. As Larsen started to fall hard for him, the painter’s passion fizzled out. Even after the two got engaged in the following year, Munch kept a distance from her saying he needed some time alone to paint. In fact, solitude and anxiety had been the drivers of his work. The together-but-not-together relationship had lasted for years between the two until the summer of 1902 when Larsen who finally had enough demanded them to get married threatening a suicide. Munch ran to her in shock and tried to console her, but a gunshot was heard from their bedroom. It was Munch who was drunk and mistakenly pulled a trigger. He lost his left middle finger from the incident while Larsen left to Paris for a new lover who was nine years younger than her just three weeks later. Munch felt a deep sense of betrayal and even hatred for women as a result. Since then, Munch had depicted Larsen as a negative representation of a femme fatale in his paintings.
This portrait – which features Larsen looking pale and depressed, Munch staring at her with a flushed face, and a guy in the back who seems to be another ego of Munch – was also painted after their break-up. After their break-up became final, Munch even ripped this painting into two pieces. Each piece had been viewed as an individual portrait on its own. That was until 2019 when the British Museum put the two paintings together for a special exhibition on the Norwegian painter. The two were reunited 114 years later. Nobody will ever know how the painter in the grave would have felt, but the “happy ending” between the two is what the audience wants to believe in 100 or so years later.