In the painting Melancholy from 1891-92, Munch formulated for the first time the simplified, symbolic style which was to characterise his art in the 1990s.
The model for the hunched-up figure was his friend Jappe Nilssen, who, that summer was suffering pangs of jealousy in a threesome relationship with Christian Krogh and his wife Oda Krogh.
The starting point was French synthetism, an art style created by Paul Gauguin and the Pont-Aven school, where, by simplifying lines, forms and colours, the artist looked for a synthesis to create the greatest possible intensity of expression.
By executing the motif as a woodcut, Munch was able to make a further simplification and concentration of expression in the picture. In relation to the painted version, the motif is a mirror image
The motif is made from two wood blocks sawn in two. The grain of the wood is used as an important element in the composition. The first plate has horizontal year-rings, whereas the overlying plate has strong vertical year-rings.
In connection with an exhibition in Berlin in 1902, Munch was worried that his woodcut blocks had been lost. He therefore cut a new version of Melancholy, this time without reversing the image, which was his usual method.