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It All Began With A Walk.....The Scream By Edvard Munch

Updated: Feb 28, 2023

Sometimes it seems so overpowering that you simply want to shout. We may all identify with these primordial human emotions. There are several examples of how art has always been a source of consolation for people in expressing the incomprehensible intricacies of human life. But there is one artwork that sticks out and asserts itself loudly: The Scream by Edvard Munch, which we shall analyze in the blog below.

Edvard Munch's pictures from the 1880s and 1890s are often gloomy and disturbing. His work frequently dealt with illness and death. Munch disregarded naturalistic detail in favor of an expressive manner that amplifies the emotional impact of his paintings. Although Munch, who showed up frequently in Germany, influenced succeeding generations of German Expressionist painters, the unique manner of his works caused public outrage on several occasions during his career.

Edvard Munch never worked outside of painting, which is what he is most known for. He never married, had children, or spent much time away from his house or studio. According to many who knew him, he was exceedingly emotional and usually appeared apprehensive. Munch lost his mother and sister when he was a youngster. Munch's father died when he was 25 years old, and his younger brother died when he was 32. To suggest Munch infused his sensitivity to life's cruelty into his work would be an understatement.

The Scream by Edvard Munch, 1893
The Scream by Edvard Munch, 1893

It All Began with a Walk

The Scream is part of a series called "The Frieze of Life," which shows emotionally intense situations relating to life, mysticism, love, and death. The Scream, described by Olso's Munch Museum as "the true mental image of civilized man's existential torment," is dominated by sentiments of uneasiness and alienation that were often associated with contemporary life at the turn of the century. Munch wrote in one of his efforts to define the motif in prose:

“I was out walking with two friends—the sun began to set—suddenly the sky turned blood red—I paused, feeling exhausted, and leaned on the fence—there was blood and tongues of fire above the blue-black fjord and the city—my friends walked on, and I stood there trembling with anxiety—and I sensed an endless scream passing through nature.”

The primary figure in the image is abstracted and scarcely human, reduced to the essence of severe misery. The two tiny individuals in the rear left are drawn rather roughly, yet they look more human. The artist's aggressive and dynamic use of curved lines and powerful colors adds immense intensity to the design. The Scream depicts a nightmare rather than a dream.

"Could only have been painted by a madman": Eight phrases scribbled in Norwegian have sparked a dispute among academics and art enthusiasts alike, prompting the question, "Who authored these words?" Some think that the frightening line could only have been engraved by Munch, while others believe it was scratched onto the painting by the hand of a vandal. But the question isn't only who scrawled the phrases into the painting's top, but why? Before we can conclude, we must analyze the artist in the issue.

Munch was inspired by "a breath of sorrow" when he created The Scream in 1893, according to his journal. This, along with the artist's own life experience, gives the picture a sense of estrangement, of the weird. The artist may have felt obligated to carve the phrases into the top corner in response to public criticism regarding the painting's overpowering sense of estrangement. Indeed, experts at Norway's National Museum of Art, Architecture, and Design, which owns the painting, believe Munch most likely added the text two years later.

The museum claims that not only does the handwriting resemble Munch's (as proved by his letters and diaries), but it also occurs during a period when his mental health was under assault. After the presentation of Munch's new work at the Blomqvist gallery in Oslo in 1895, the University of Oslo's Students Association debated the pieces. At the argument, a medical student called Johan Scharffenberg said that the artwork made him question Munch's mental status, labeling him a "madman." Even decades after the controversy about his art in Oslo, it was clear Munch was genuinely affected by the remark, as evidenced by references to it in his writings.

Gulen believes Munch placed the message during a time when he was feeling the anguish of being attacked while also fearing the stigma of being perceived as mentally ill. "By writing this inscription in the clouds, he gained possession, or control, of how he was viewed and understood," Gulen explained.

Not once, but twice, it was taken!

The first incident occurred in 1994 when robbers came in via a window and stole a painting of The Scream from Oslo's National Gallery. Fortunately, it was discovered and returned within three months. In 2004, gunmen came into the Munch Museum and stole a second version of The Scream as well as the artist's Madonna. Both artworks were missing until 2006, amid suspicions that they had been destroyed or, worse, disposed of.

Has Scream inspired the film Scream?

Halloween isn't complete without a watch of the 1996 horror film Scream, starring Drew Barrymore, Courteney Cox, and Neve Campbell. When creating the terrifying mask that appears throughout the picture, director Wes Craven was influenced by Munch's The Scream.

I believe The Scream is so well-known because we can all connect to it. It is entirely timeless. Many individuals suffer from anxiety, and the time we live in has made no difference. We are all human. We go about our lives, and we encounter things we would prefer not to have encountered. We see ourselves in the image, locked in a never-ending cry of anguish. It is our anxiety, pain, suffering, and mental sickness. We, too, suffer in silence.


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