What Does Munch’s Scream Mean?
Edvard Munch’s painting ‘The Scream’, which describes the existential suffering of man, is the second most famous work in the history of art. Alastair Sooke explains why.
Under the yellow, orange and red sky, a human figure standing in the middle of the bridge, resembling both a man and a woman. He stands with both hands raised to either side of his skull-like head.
Eyes wide open, he lets out a blood-curdling scream. The calmness of the two people in the back and the ship seen in the distance bear a sign of normality, but in everything else there is an air of fear.
This is the painting ‘The Scream’ by Norwegian painter Edvard Munch; It is the second most famous work in art history after Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa.
More precisely, one of the four The Scream paintings by Munch. The first version of the oil painting he painted in 1893 is on display at the National Gallery in Oslo, and the pastel version of the same date and the other oil painting version from 1910 are on display at the Munch Museum in the same city.
This 1895 version of The Scream sold for $120 million in the United States in 2012, making it the most expensive piece of art for a short time.
But what we are dealing with here is the only pastel painting he made in 1895 that is in private possession. In 2012, it was sold for $120 million in the United States, making it the most expensive piece of art for a short time. This painting, bought by a financier, is on temporary display at the Neue Gallery in New York, in an exhibition on Munch and Expressionism.
Art historian Jill Lloyd says the best of the four is the oil painting version on display at the National Gallery in Oslo. But he emphasizes that the pastel painting is also the “most intense version” because of its vivid colors and freshness that seems like it was made yesterday.
Munch had produced his most famous works in Germany, including ‘The Vampire and Madonna’.
The exhibition in New York explores the relationship between Munch and the innovative Expressionist art movement. Munch was born in 1863, the second of five children of a poor military doctor. Expressionism arose in Germany and Austria in the early 20th century. Munch painted The Scream in 1895, three years after he arrived in Berlin.
He was meeting with his fellow painters and writers in a beer hall in Germany, while also creating a series of autobiographical works. These paintings included her special feelings about love, sexuality, and death turned into universal symbols.
The first Scream, painted in 1893, was one of these 22 works. In another work he did a year ago, he dealt with a similar subject in a different way, but since his gentle melancholy is not as effective as the existential anguish in The Scream, it is not included in that series.
In his diary note, Munch described his inspiration for The Scream: “I was walking down the road with two of my friends; The sun went down, I was caught in a wave of melancholy. Suddenly the sky turned a crimson color. I stopped and leaned against the bars. The blazing sky hung like blood and sword above the blue fjord and the city. My friends continued on their way; I just stood there with great anxiety and it was as if I felt an endless scream in nature.”
In a way, the hero of The Scream may be the painter’s self-portrait. When Munch was 13, he lost his older sister. Art historians point to another source: a Peruvian mummy on display at the World’s Fair in Paris in 1889.
We all Scream
The scream affected not only the expressionists. Traces are also seen in Francis Bacon’s paintings, such as howling popes. Andy Warhol reprinted The Scream in a series of striking colors in 1984. Munch later went on to inspire other artists.
However, the most striking feature of The Scream is not the effect on the artists after it, but the fact that it has become one of the pillars of popular culture. Today this work is more famous than the painter who created it.
Lloyd attributes one of the reasons for this to the fact that “cartoon is easy to make”, “the kind of painting you will never forget once you see it” and, of course, it is an image that has been used commercially in many places as well.
Lloyd also noted the success of this work as “20. He attributes it to expressing the important change that took place in Western culture at the beginning of the century. “The scream is one of those images that epitomizes a moment of change in history,” says Lloyd.
“It signifies the purification of man from certainties which had so far comforted him in the nineteenth century: there is no longer God, no tradition, no more habits; It’s just the poor man himself in an existential crisis who is faced with a universe he doesn’t understand and can only relate to it out of a sense of panic.”
“This may sound negative, but that is the modern situation. This is what distinguishes modern man from post-Renaissance history up to that point: the feeling of having lost the anchors that anchored us to the world.”