‘Between the Clock and the Bed’ by Edvard Munch might seem like a very simple and basic painting. But once you understand the meaning the artist was trying to convey, the entire painting will change in front of your eyes.
Munch created this painting in the final years of his life. In fact, ‘Between the Clock and the Bed’ is the last major work of Munch. The painting was completed in 1943 and the artist died in 1944.
This painting is a self-portrait. Munch was known to deliver impactful messages, themes, and meanings through his self-portraits. He loved to paint himself in different forms and places, even in Hell!
Composition and Structure of the Painting
The painting is made to look very depressing and uncomfortable. The artist intends to evoke a feeling of claustrophobia, sorrow, and sadness. This is done by painting a cramped scene.
The clock is on the left edge of the canvas, while the bed is on the right side. You can see only half of the bed. In the middle, you can see a door that opens to the rest of the house.
The walls are filled with paintings that the artist made. Almost all area of the wall is completely covered, creating a sense of chaos. The whole cramped space with so many things makes viewers feel uneasy.
In this unharmonious scene, you see a tall figure standing. The way Munch has painted himself shows how weak his body has become. The gaunt appearance on his body is evident, even though the figure lacks any details.
The brush strokes are rough and large. It seems like the painter made the painting without much regard for the color or composition. Munch just wanted to paint a scene, and he did it in a way that shows he was in a hurry.
The Meaning of the Painting
Let’s come to the most important part of the painting; its meaning. What was Munch trying to show us or tell us? Why this bizarre self-portrait where he is just standing between the clock and the bed?
The theme of the painting is the passage of time and the arrival of death. There are three subjects in this painting. Munch is one, the bed is the other and the clock is the third subject.
Munch started painting this painting in the last years of his life. He could feel the effects of age on his body and he is showing it clearly here. On the left side is the clock that signifies the passing of time.
Munch is stating that time is passing by, and his time is coming soon. On the right side is the bed, which will be the place where Munch will end his life. From the left to right, you see the journey of the artist.
Between time and death, Munch stands. The reason he stands like that is to show his inability to fight it. He cannot outrun time or death. Notice how the bed looks more like a hospital bed than a normal bed.
So he stands and stares at us. That’s what his life has become; ticking time and a place of rest. As for the painting behind, we think that the painting is Munch’s ‘Red and White’ but we are not sure.
So that’s the theme and meaning of the painting; an old man waiting for death as he lies on the bed where he sees the passage of time.
Munch has painted the two things that he thinks will be there with him at the end. This place, this room is the final resting place for Munch.