Today is the anniversary of when the famous painting ‘The Scream’ by Norwegian artist Edvard Munch (1863 – 1944) was recovered undamaged where it was first stolen in February 1994 from the Oslo Museum. It had been missing nearly 3 months.
Artist and printmaker Munch explored themes of madness, jealousy and sexual awakening, among other psychological states. His childhood was tragic. His sister and mother died of tuberculosis and there was mental instability in his family. The Scream’ (also known as ‘the Shriek) or to give its original title Der Schrei der Natur means ‘The Scream of Nature) and the painting was part of his ‘Frieze of Life’ which he painted in 1893.
A lot has been written about Munch’s tragic personal life as well as his art (read two of my earlier posts here and here ). Munch. although striking, tall and handsome to women was himself quite wary of the opposite sex. He had a fear of marriage, convinced that any children he may have may be prone to depression and physical illness – a family trait.
The location in the painting has been identified as the road leading up to the mental hospital Munch’s sister Laura Catherine was a patient in at the time of the painting. I once watched a programme about Munch and this painting and it was said that screams could be heard from the interns by Munch and his family.
In a page in his diary headed Nice 22.01.1892, Munch described his inspiration for the image thus:
I was walking along a path with two friends – the sun was setting – 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 infinite scream passing through nature.
This painting has inspired films, masks and other art – my own included. The painting has been stolen a few times. the first time was February 12th 1994 and recovered undamaged in May 1994.
Another version of ‘The Scream’ (there are several) was stolen by gunmen in 2004 and recovered in 2006 (lots of details about the thefts here.
In 2004 I even ‘borrowed’ the painting myself, basing some lino prints on it. The intention behind this was to show the alternative worlds between madness and sanity. I did this by cutting my print up and re-assembling, then making further prints. The print is divided and has the line running down the middle to show the split personality of the self and other. I have heightened the colours to show intensity and acuteness – but I have made one muddier and more nebular to show the hidden and less lucid mood.
Original Scream image from here
More about this painting here.