In the painting Separation from 1896 we see a young fair-haired woman looking out to sea while her hair flows out to the man’s chest, as if they are still tied together even though she is leaving him. This is an example of the hair symbolism that we find in many of Munch’s motifs.
The man is dressed in black, the colour of sorrow and despair. He is clutching his heart with a bleeding hand.. In front of him a plant or flower is growing; its shape and colour look as if it could be his own bleeding heart.
The colour red symbolises love, pain and blood. The red heart-shaped plant reflects Munch’s ideas that all art draws nourishment from the life-blood of the artist.
The flowing shoreline, a feature of many of Munch’s love motifs, is based on Aasgaardsstrand.
The Separation is decoratively and aesthetically refined. The motif is split into two independent surfaces, separated by flowing lines with subtle variations, inspired by contemporary Art Nouveau or Jugend style.
The painting has a rich and varied texture, and surfaces which are both lustrous and matt. One eye-catching detail is the use of gold paint in the woman’s hair and the landscape.
There is no corresponding use of this colour in any of Munch’s other paintings, but gold does fit in with the tendency towards the decorative and exclusive in the art of that period.