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The Art of JAMA
April 14, 2015

The Girls on the BridgeEdvard Munch

JAMA. 2015;313(14):1400-1401. doi:10.1001/jama.2014.11681

Åsgårdstrand is a village on the Oslofjord, an inlet that reaches from the Skagerrak Strait at the southern tip of Norway to the capital city of Oslo. At the turn of the 20th century, vacationers and artists came to Åsgårdstrand to linger on the piers in the long twilight of the summer months. The Norwegian artist Edvard Munch (1863-1944) painted The Girls on the Bridge from a pier in the harbor of Åsgårdstrand, probably in the year 1901. In this painting, a few simple shapes—blocky houses, a spherical tree, and a white fence—anchor the image of three girls in long dresses who look out over the water. The road behind them wavers uneasily as it joins the shoreline before climbing the hill. In Munch’s paintings, distortions of the landscape are reminders that perception can be altered by one’s mood. The steep perspective pulls the pier into the picture plane, establishing a connection between the viewer and the girls. The ambience of the painting has been described as lyrical, mysterious, nostalgic, ominous, elegiac, haunting, and tense. Many of Munch’s paintings, such as The Sick Child (JAMA cover, December 11, 1987), Starry Night, and The Scream (JAMA cover, January 18, 1971), are images of foreboding and sorrow, but the somber tone of The Girls on the Bridge may have less to do with the subject than with its Scandinavian latitude.

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