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The Scream by Edvard Munch

For Artwork in Focus we explore individual artworks, critiquing their style and discussing their socio-political context. Today we look at The Scream by Edvard Munch. 

About the Work

Title : The Scream
Artist : Edvard Munc18h
Year : 1893
Medium : Oil, tempera, pastel and crayon on cardboard
Dimensions :  91 cm × 73.5 cm (36 in × 28.9 in)
Location : National Gallery and Munch Museum, Oslo, Norway

The Scream (1893)
Edvard Munch
Image Courtesy : National Gallery, Oslo

The Darkness that inspired Munch

Munch’s The Scream, the first version, is one of the most iconic artworks of all time. Somehow it captures the panic of society, effectively – be it psychological, economic, physical – or depicting a spiritual crisis. It is also referred to as The Cry, sometimes, as it is much talked about, represented and re-represented, made the subject of meme’s and countless discussions. The expressionistic colours add a relatability to the work, and the context. The anomalous bright swirling sky, and of course its mysterious sexless subject is captivating. The pain and anguish released by the moment is immense, and has lodged in human memory, permanently.

Truthfully, Munch was much troubled in his young life. He witnessed the trauma of death of close family and siblings, and later unrequited love. Through his art, he gives us a glimpse of the torment of the inner world. Juxtaposing bright and exaggerated colours and simple shapes to his existential crisis. Talking about his work – Munch describes feelings of exhaustion, and being overwhelmed by violent waves of anxiety.

“I was walking down the road with two friends when the sun set; suddenly, the sky turned as red as blood. I stopped and leaned against the fence, feeling unspeakably tired. Tongues of fire and blood stretched over the bluish black fjord. My friends went on walking, while I lagged behind, shivering with fear. Then I heard the enormous infinite scream of nature.”

Edvard Munch

Other Details

There is something about ‘The Scream’ that makes it the target of several high-profile art thefts, over several decades. In 1994, the version in the National Gallery, Oslo, was stolen and it was recovered after several months. Notably, there are four versions of the painting. The Oslo National Gallery Version from 1893 – Tempera on Cardboard, The Munch Museum version from 1893 – Crayon on cardboard,  The version housed at a private collection, from 1895 – Pastel on cardboard, The Munch Museum’s Replica from 1910 – Tempera on Cardboard. The last one, the original is still missing. Munch was reclusive and fairly reticent and almost all of his repertoire was discovered after his death. The versions could have been the artists musings.

To learn more about iconic artworks and their socio-political context, visit Artwork in Focus.

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