The starting point for The Death of Marat was the harrowing break-up with Tulla Larsen, who Munch was engaged to from 1898 to 1902.
During a huge quarrel at his summer house at Aagaardsstrand in 1902, a revolver went off by accident, injuring Munch’s left hand. Munch laid the lame on Tulla Larsen and the engagement was broken off. The episode developed into a trauma which was to haunt Munch for many years, and which he worked on in several paintings, such as The Death of Marat I and The Death of Marat II, also called The Murderess.
The title Death of Marat refers to the murder of the French revolutionary Jean Paul Marat who, in 1793, was murdered by Charlotte Corday when he was lying in the bathtub. This was a motif many artists had treated up through the years. Marat was often presented as a hero, whilst Corday was regarded as a traitor.
In The Death of Marat II Munch depicts himself naked on the bed with a bloody hand. The naked woman has Tula Larsen’s facial features as she stands upright in front of the bed.
The picture was painted in the Baltic coast town of Warnemunde in 1907 in a period when Munch was experimenting with expressionistic painting techniques.
He developed his own special technique, characterised by clearly distinct horizontal and vertical brush-strokes.
The picture is built up with a balanced play of horizontal and vertical lines, both with regards to the figures, the use of space and the brush-strokes. This spontaneous, primitive way of painting reveals the artist’s personal aggression towards the motif.