Munch, Edvard (Norwegian, 1863-1944)

The Scream

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This is one of five versions of The Scream. Two of the others were created in pastel, one in tempera, and one as a black and white lithograph. Edvard Munch described the experience that led to his iconic painting in this way: “I went along the road with two friends—The sun set. Suddenly the sky became blood—and I felt the breath of sadness. … I stopped—leaned against the fence—deathly tired. Clouds over the fjord … dripped reeking blood. My friends went on but I just stood trembling with an open wound in my breast…. I heard a huge extraordinary scream pass through nature.” According to Munch’s biographer Sue Prideaux, the artist and his friends were walking at a high point east of Oslo that offers a view of the city across the water. Although it appears as if they were crossing a bridge, in fact they were on a path next to a safety railing. Prideaux suggests that Munch was in that neighborhood to visit his sister Laura, who was incarcerated at the city’s insane asylum, which was located near a slaughterhouse. Screams reportedly were heard from both locations. (Reference: Prideaux, Sue. Edvard Munch. Behind The Scream. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2005, pp. 150-151) Munch’s intention for The Scream was to incorporate it into his life-long project that he called “The Frieze of Life.” It was divided into sections, and the paintings included in each were frequently changed and/or rearranged. In terms of relationships, the frieze progressed from a couple meeting and falling in love through their relationship’s disintegration into jealousy and despair. This last state would be represented by The Scream. Notes by Mariann Smith
National Museum, Oslo