Edvard Munch, ‘Stéphane Mallarmé’, 1897, Christie's

Unsigned, inscribed Mallarmé in pencil by another hand, a fine, early impression of Woll's variant a), with the sitter's name below masked out, printed by Auguste Clot, Paris, with wide margins, probably the full sheet, some very minor creases and light-staining, otherwise in very good condition.
Image 405 x 295 mm., Sheet 564 x 410 mm.

From the Catalogue:
Stéphane Mallarmé (1842-1898) was one of the leading Symbolist writers and poets working in France in the late 19th century. His most famous work, L'après-midi d'un faune, is an erotic and sensual monologue of a Faun awakening and retelling his trysts with nymphs within his dream. The poem became the inspiration for Debussy’s famous orchestral work and Nijinsky’s ballet of the same name.

Munch’s portrait of the poet, executed in a style similar to the artist’s Self-Portrait published two years before (lot 32), shows an equally disembodied head with eyes staring fixedly at the viewer. It was completed a year before the Symbolist writer’s death in 1898. Munch had begun the project in the autumn of 1896, shortly after he had met Mallarmé during a trip to Paris earlier that year. During their meetings, Munch made detailed notes of Mallarmé’s countenance and expressions to incorporate into his portrait: “Two eyes in which the clear day is reflected – The quiet water beneath a ridge – the beard and hair are grizzled – a little bristly like the beard of a pig – The smile is kind and a little pensive.” (Munchmuseet, MM N 178)

These two masters of the Symbolist aesthetic greatly admired one another. Mallarmé was clearly pleased with the outcome, commenting that it was a “gripping portrait, which gives me an intimate sense of myself.”

An impression of this subject in olive-green, perhaps chosen because of the colour of the walls in Mallarmé’s study in Paris, has not appeared at auction in over twenty years.
—Courtesy of Christie's

Schiefler 79; Woll 99

Estate of Félix Vallotton (1865-1925), Lausanne, Paris (according to Heinrich Becker’s notes).
With Galerie Paul Prouté, Paris (according to Heinrich Becker’s notes).
Dr. Heinrich Karl Wilhelm Becker (1881-1972), Bielefeld, acquired from the above; then by descent to the present owners.

About Edvard Munch

A recognized forerunner of Expressionism, Norwegian painter and printmaker Edvard Munch is renowned for his representations of emotion. Associated with the international development of Symbolism, Munch experimented with many different themes, palettes, and styles of drawing. Though stylistically influenced by Paul Gauguin and the Nabis, Munch’s subjects are drawn from his Scandinavian roots and his own tortured psyche. His most famous painting, The Scream (1893), illustrates a tormented cry translated into waves of color that resonate across the landscape. Though based on Munch’s own experience, The Scream has become an instantly recognizable symbol of anxiety and alienation. Often reworking his paintings into etchings and lithographs, Munch was also one of the major graphic artists of the 20th century—he took an experimental approach to printmaking and contributed to the revival of the woodcut.

Norwegian, 1863-1944, Løten, Norway, based in Oslo, Norway