The woman lies on her back in bed, one leg cocked and her right arm hanging down limply. Are her eyes still shut or is she languidly looking towards the viewer? Hard to tell. What is clear, though, is that she has to nurse a hangover. In this boldly captured scene we see only part of a table in front of the bed. But what we see on it speaks for itself: bottles and glasses – the leftovers of a nightly carousal. The viewer finds himself in the role of an intruder, an uninvited voyeur who is coming unduly close to the woman.
In 1892, Munch had become known to a wider public in Germany: Upon recommendation of the painter Adelsteen Normann, the conservative Association of Berlin Artists had invited him for a solo exhibition – without being familiar with Munch’s Œuvre! The show was shut down within the week, but the “Munch affair” brought the artist his international breakthrough. Just as he had previously been involved in the group of the Kristiania Bohemians around the rebellious poet Hans Jæger, Munch now became a welcome guest of the intellectual circle at the Berlin wine bar “Zum schwarzen Ferkel” – in English: “The Black Piglet”.
In the drypoint etching The Day After he abandons the conventions of earlier interior scenes, taking the viewer into an anti-bourgeois sphere of life and lending picture-worthiness to a subject that would have shocked his contemporaries. Still, the subject of total exhaustion after excessive drinking met the criteria Munch had laid down in his “Saint Cloud Manifesto” of 1889: “No longer shall I paint interiors with men reading and women knitting. I will paint living people who breathe and feel and suffer and love.”