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Scenes from working-day life can be found in many of Munch’s early drawings from Kristiania (Oslo) and Hedmark county. Later, in Paris and Saint Cloud 1889–90, he depicted people in cafés and out in the streets. Fishermen and farmers pop up in drawings from Åsgårdstrand, and during his stay in Warnemünde in 1907 and 1908 local people form an important part of his art.

Women at work outside the home were not very common, but we meet them in some of the professions that were open to them; as charwomen (MM.T.00534) and nurses (MM.T.00533).

In 1909 Munch settled in Kragerø, and the chores of daily life was frequently recorded in his sketchbooks and on his canvasses. Upon seeing a group of road workers, he executed his first monumental painting of workers proudly representing their own class (MM.T.00152-21). A few years later he was fascinated by factory workers on their way home, a motif he treated in a number of variations, e.g. in this bold water colour (MM.T.01854). Workers felling timber and farm workers are also abundantly represented in his art (MM.T.00218-23-verso).

In 1921 Munch was commissioned to make decorations for the Freia Chocolate Factory, and in addition to the panels which were executed, he also made drafts for six panels presenting the professional and social life of the workers (MM.T.02028).

After settling at Ekely, he soon realized that he needed more working space; an in 1919 work began on a new brick studio next to his house. Construction work became a new circle of motifs that he elaborated on through the 1920s, particularly when the brick studio was completely rebuilt in 1929, and workers again were present on his property. This coincided with ideas he developed for the decorations in the new city hall, with the erection of the building itself as a central motif. However, as the architects constantly altered their drafts, Munch consequentially changed his plans for the decorations, ending up with a three-part composition, with Workers in the Snow as a centerpiece, flanked by workers digging and snow shovellers (MM.T.02351).