Pinpointing the cause has never been easier. In a year of imposed physical distancing and limited contacts, it is hardly surprising that an increase in loneliness is being registered, even less so in a society with continually more single-person households and demographic change. Loneliness seems easily explained with the state of being physically alone. That this is not (always) the case and, conversely, physical closeness is not tantamount to emotional intimacy is illustrated by Edvard Munch’s Girls on the Pier. The three girls are leaning side by side on the balustrade.  While her companions are looking down into the water, one of the girls turns away. Even more than her posture, it is her inward gaze that makes her appear lonely. This impression is enhanced by the perspective on the railing and the street that creates a veritable pull. Compared to this loneliness in the midst of company, solitude due to physical distance seems almost alleviating.

Sjusanna Eremjan (research assistant)