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Originally titled Woman in Love, this painting can be seen as symbolising what Munch saw as the essential acts of the female life cycle: sexual intercourse, which leads to fertilisation, procreation and death. The first act is evidenced by the painting itself, an intensified and spiritualised variation of the mating pose in the nude, with the woman depicted as lying under her lover.
That Munch associated this image with death is clear from his own comments on the painting, in which he saw it as representing the eternal cyclical process of generation and decay in nature. See more
He constantly associated love with death.
Indeed, Munch, who could not accept Christianity or a personal god, viewed the ongoing generation and metamorphosis of life from a religious perspective, subsuming its spiritual and material components. The blood-red halo around the woman's head could be seen as the spiritual counterpart to the touches of red on her lips, nipples and navel. She seems to float in bands of coloured light reminiscent of art nouveau. Far from distorting her, however, they resemble a supernatural emanation, perhaps derived from the spiritualist notion of aura, surrounding all individuals but only visible to mediums.