Edvard Munch's Girls on the Bridge achieves $54.5m

Edvard Munch's Girls on the Bridge (1902) led Sotheby's impressionist and modern art evening sale on November 14 with a bid of $54.5m.

It's now his second most valuable work at auction.

Edvard Munch Girls
Edvard Munch painted this canvas during a difficult period in his life

The painting is one of 12 canvases he produced on the same theme.

It last sold for $30.8m in 2008, resulting in growth of 7.3% per annum in the intervening years.

It dates to one of Munch's most turbulent and creative periods.

In 1902 his work was exhibited in the prestigious Berliner Secession, but his behaviour was becoming increasingly erratic.

He fought with friends and blew two of his fingers off with a pistol during a row with a former lover.  

In a letter written to a friend in 1933, he explains: "...those years from 1902 until the Copenhagen clinic [a psychiatric hospital he attended in 1908] were the unhappiest, the most difficult and yet the most fateful and productive years of my life."

Munch's record is $119m, set for a version of his iconic work The Scream in 2012.

Picasso's Le Painter et Son Modele (1963) realised $12.9m.

It's one of 40 paintings he produced between 1963 and 1964 that explore the relationship between artist and model.

Some were disappointed with the results of the sale, which pulled in $157.7m - roughly half of the total last year.

It seems likely that a lack of big ticket pieces kept buyers away, with many sellers deciding to hang on to their investments until the markets stabilise after a year of political upheaval.

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