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The Dance of Life

1899: Munch Museum, Oslo

Munch had a cyclic view of life. 'We repeat ourselves like crystals that are dissolved and then recrystallise again', he once explained. At the centre of this cycle was not God, nor man, but woman, seen in this painting fulfilling her biological role, as she first becomes conscious of sex, dressed in white, while spring flowers bloom at her side: then consummates her passion in a flaming red dress as she dances somewhat rigidly with man: and finally dressed in black, she stands as a spent force, awaiting death. The demonic dancing couples in the background, in the black and white, reveal other stages of desire. The dance takes place, as in so many of his works about sexual attraction, on the shore. Once again there is the familiar sight of a sun (or moon) throwing a pale light across the water.
 
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