Updated: Apr 21
Second most famous human figure next to Leonardo da Vinci’s Monalisa is Edvard Munch’s The Scream. These are 2 most iconic figures in the history of Western art. This painting by Munch shows an androgynous person with a skull like head and elongated hands, flaring nostrils and an ovoid mouth. Its background; with its swirling blue skies and the fiery orange effect has made people come up with various theories with respect to how the scene is depicted and like its counterpart The Monalisa, it has also been stolen a couple of times in the past, and even a version of the painting made on cardboard with pastels sold for $120,000,000, making it the second highest price ever achieved by a painting at an auction.
Munch has used minimalism to achieve the massive expressiveness it has today. the painting has been divided into 3 main parts namely, the bridge, the foreground and the figure. The bridge is made in such an angle so as to cover the foreground which includes lake, hills and a shoreline. The foreground and the background merge to create a ripple effect and the human figures in the background, belong to the “geometric precision of the bridge”.
Munch, who was well known for expressing emotions, experimented with many different themes and palettes. His usually takes inspiration from his Scandinavian roots and his own tortured psyche. His most famous work ‘The Scream’ shows a “tormented cry translated into waves of color that resonate across the landscape”. Here are some of the lesser known facts about Mulch’s full of emotions piece of art, ‘The Scream’ :
1. WHO IS THE ANDROGENOUS FIGURE IN THE PAINTING ?
Art historians have noted a significant similarity of the figure in the painting to the Peruvian Mummy which was then displayed at the World Fair in Paris in 1889. Munch’s main aim was to showcase internal emotions through an external form and hence provided this image for a universal human experience.
2. SCENE DEPICTION IN ‘THE SCREAM’
Since it first appeared, scholars have tried to determine the exact time this painting depicts. There have been a lot of speculations about the same, one of which is – due to the unnaturally harsh colors, it could depict volcanic dust from the Krakatoa volcanic eruption which took place in Indonesia. This assumption was made due to how vibrant the color of the sky became when this eruption happened and which led to these spectacular sunsets everywhere for a few months.
3. IT WAS STOLEN. TWICE.
It was first stolen in 1994 when thieves broke into the National Gallery in Oslo through a window and flee with the painting. Fortunately, it was found within 3 months and returned to the gallery. It was stolen again a decade later, when armed men broke into the Munch Museum in 2004 and stole a different version of Munch. Along with this, they also stole Munch’s Madonna. Bothe of them remained missing for 2 years and people started thinking that it was damaged or disposed of. After it was returned to the museum, conservation process didn’t make scholars very happy.
4. THE FOUR PAINTING
This painting is considered a semi autobiography of Munch and is painted in not one, not 2 but 4 forms! These 4 forms were oil, tempera, pastels on cardboard and another final tempura painting in this order itself. He also created a lithographic version in year 1895. The fact that he made 4 different versions of the painting showcases his ability to experiment with the possibilities there were.
5. THE ANDROGENOUS FIGURE IS NOT ACTUALLY SCREAMING.
The figure in the painting is not the one screaming rather the screams come from his surrounding, said Munch. Munch printed ‘I felt a large scream pass through nature’ in German at the bottom of the piece and hence the original name of the painting was supposed to be ‘The Scream of the Nature’. The figure is trying to block the screams the screams around them and since the figure it.
6. IT IS AN EMOJI
The powerful expression of this painting has now proliferated into our everyday lives in the form of an emoji. It is one of the handful of paintings that have been turned into an emoji.
7. THE SCREAM IN POP ART
This painting has become an icon and has also been turned into a meme. It has always fascinated people and continues to do so till today. it has also influenced our visual culture, specially of the west, a lot! It has been used in po art by world famous pop artists like Andy Warhol and has also been feature in Manga. British artist Peter Brookes even used this painting as an image and published a drawing based on this in The Times in 2017.
8. THE SCREAM IN POPULAR CULTURE
This painting has influenced many creative influenced and has made its way into different mediums of creativity as well, out of which the most famous one is the world of film and television. it was used in the cult science fiction series Doctor Who, the humanoids with monster faces in the Scream franchise were also inspired by this painting. The director of the movie admired Mulch’s work very much and captured the facial expression in a mask which have now become very popular! This mask was worn by the crazy murderer in the film.
9. THE SCREAM IS IN THE PUBLIC DOMAIN
All of Munch’s work are now a public domain in countries that embrace a copyright term known as “Life plus 70 Years”. It is there in countries such as Russia, Turkey, Nigeria and Brazil amongst others. Since The Scream was created before 1923, it was already a public domain in the United States of America.
10. HALLOWEEN CANDY WAS VERY MUCH INVOLVED
When the painting was stolen, Mars Inc. decided to add to the recovery efforts and added a promotion of the new dark M&Ms. They decided to give 2 million M&Ms to anyone who returned the painting. Surprisingly this offer worked. The thief turned out to be a candy and chocolate lover and gave up the whereabouts of the painting in less than a week since the promotions began. When he went to the prison, he asked for 2.2 tonnes of candy in his plea deal yet the prize was given to the Norwegian authorities and the cash prize of $26,000 went to the Munch Museum.
Edvard Munch is one of the well known and prolific figures in the world of modern art yet he is known for this single painting. But upon his death in 1944, authorities discovered a collection of 1,008 paintings, 4,443 drawings and 15,391 prints as well as woodcuts, etching, lithographs and copperplates amongst others in the second floor of his house. A lot needs to be discovered yet about the secrets these paintings hold !