German: Der Schrei der Natur
|Type||Oil, tempera, pastel and crayon on cardboard|
|Dimensions||91 cm × 73.5 cm (36 in × 28.9 in)|
|Location||National Gallery, Oslo, Norway|
The Scream (Norwegian: Skrik) is the popular name given to each of four versions of a composition, created as both paintings and pastels, by the Expressionist artist Edvard Munch between 1893 and 1910. The German title Munch gave these works is Der Schrei der Natur (The Scream of Nature). The works show a figure with an agonized expression against a landscape with a tumultuous orange sky. Arthur Lubow has described The Scream as "an icon of modern art, a Mona Lisa for our time."
Edvard Munch created the four versions in various media. The National Gallery, Oslo, holds one of two painted versions (1893, shown here). The Munch Museum holds the other painted version (1910, see gallery, below) and a pastel version from 1893. These three versions have not traveled for years.
The fourth version (pastel, 1895) was sold for $119,922,600 at Sotheby's Impressionist and Modern Art auction on 2 May 2012 to financier Leon Black, the fourth highest nominal price paid for a painting at auction. The painting was on display in the Museum of Modern Art in New York from October 2012 to April 2013.
Also in 1895, Munch created a lithograph stone of the image. Of the lithograph prints produced by Munch, several examples survive. Only approximately four dozen prints were made before the original stone was resurfaced by the printer in Munch's absence.
The Scream has been the target of several high-profile art thefts. In 1994, the version in the National Gallery was stolen. It was recovered several months later. In 2004, both The Scream and Madonna were stolen from the Munch Museum, and were both recovered two years later.
Sources of inspiration
The original German title given by Munch to his work was Der Schrei der Natur ("The Scream of Nature"). The Norwegian word skrik usually is translated as "scream", but is cognate with the English "shriek". Occasionally, the painting also has been called The Cry.
In his diary in an entry headed "Nice 22 January 1892", Munch wrote:
I was walking along the road 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.
He later described his inspiration for the image:
One evening I was walking along a path, the city was on one side and the fjord below. I felt tired and ill. I stopped and looked out over the fjord—the sun was setting, and the clouds turning blood red. I sensed a scream passing through nature; it seemed to me that I heard the scream. I painted this picture, painted the clouds as actual blood. The color shrieked. This became The Scream.
Among theories advanced to account for the reddish sky in the background is the artist's memory of the effects of the powerful volcanic eruption of Krakatoa, which deeply tinted sunset skies red in parts of the Western hemisphere for months during 1883 and 1884, about a decade before Munch painted The Scream. This explanation has been disputed by scholars, who note that Munch was an expressive painter and was not primarily interested in literal renderings of what he had seen. Alternatively, it has been suggested that the proximity of both a slaughterhouse and a lunatic asylum to the site depicted in the painting may have offered some inspiration. The scene was identified as being the view from a road overlooking Oslo, the Oslofjord and Hovedøya, from the hill of Ekeberg. At the time of painting the work, Munch's manic depressive sister Laura Catherine was a patient at the asylum at the foot of Ekeberg.
In 1978, the Munch scholar Robert Rosenblum suggested that the strange, sexless creature in the foreground of the painting was inspired by a Peruvian mummy, which Munch could have seen at the 1889 Exposition Universelle in Paris. This mummy, which was buried in a fetal position with its hands alongside its face, also struck the imagination of Munch's friend Paul Gauguin: it stood as a model for figures in more than twenty of Gauguin's paintings, among those the central figure in his painting, Human misery (Grape harvest at Arles) and for the old woman at the left in his painting, Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going?. In 2004, an Italian anthropologist speculated that Munch might have seen a mummy in Florence's Museum of Natural History, which bears an even more striking resemblance to the painting. Nonetheless, later studies have confirmed Rosenblum's suggestion, disproving the Italian theory, for Munch had not been to Florence until after painting The Scream.
The imagery of The Scream has been compared to that which an individual suffering from depersonalization disorder experiences, a feeling of distortion of the environment and one's self, and also facial pain in the form of Trigeminal neuralgia.
The material composition of the 1893 painted version was examined in 2010. The pigment analysis revealed the use of cadmium yellow, vermilion, ultramarine and viridian among other pigments of the 19th century.
The Scream has been the target of a number of thefts and theft attempts. Some damage has been suffered in these thefts.
On 12 February 1994, the same day as the opening of the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, two men broke into the National Gallery, Oslo, and stole its version of The Scream, leaving a note reading "Thanks for the poor security". The painting had been moved down to a second-story gallery as part of the Olympic festivities. After the gallery refused to pay a ransom demand of US$1 million in March 1994, Norwegian police set up a sting operation with assistance from the British police (SO10) and the Getty Museum and the painting was recovered undamaged on 7 May 1994. In January 1996, four men were convicted in connection with the theft, including Pål Enger, who had been convicted of stealing Munch's Vampire in 1988. They were released on appeal on legal grounds: the British agents involved in the sting operation had entered Norway under false identities.
The 1910 tempera on board version of The Scream was stolen on 22 August 2004, during daylight hours, when masked gunmen entered the Munch Museum in Oslo and stole it and Munch's Madonna. A bystander photographed the robbers as they escaped to their car with the artwork. On 8 April 2005, Norwegian police arrested a suspect in connection with the theft, but the paintings remained missing and it was rumored that they had been burned by the thieves to destroy evidence. On 1 June 2005, with four suspects already in custody in connection with the crime, the city government of Oslo offered a reward of 2 million Norwegian krone (roughly US$313,500 or €231,200) for information that could help locate the paintings. Although the paintings remained missing, six men went on trial in early 2006, variously charged with either helping to plan or participating in the robbery. Three of the men were convicted and sentenced to between four and eight years in prison in May 2006, and two of the convicted, Bjørn Hoen and Petter Tharaldsen, were also ordered to pay compensation of 750 million kroner (roughly US$117.6 million or €86.7 million) to the City of Oslo. The Munch Museum was closed for ten months for a security overhaul.
On 31 August 2006, Norwegian police announced that a police operation had recovered both The Scream and Madonna, but did not reveal detailed circumstances of the recovery. The paintings were said to be in a better-than-expected condition. "We are 100 percent certain they are the originals," police chief Iver Stensrud told a news conference. "The damage was much less than feared." Munch Museum director Ingebjørg Ydstie confirmed the condition of the paintings, saying it was much better than expected and that the damage could be repaired. The Scream had moisture damage on the lower left corner, while Madonna suffered several tears on the right side of the painting as well as two holes in Madonna's arm. Before repairs and restoration began, the paintings were put on public display by the Munch Museum beginning 27 September 2006. During the five-day exhibition, 5,500 people viewed the damaged paintings. The conserved works went back on display on 23 May 2008, when the exhibition "Scream and Madonna — Revisited" at the Munch Museum in Oslo displayed the paintings together. Some damage to The Scream may prove impossible to repair, but the overall integrity of the work has not been compromised.
Record sale at auction
The 1895 pastel-on-board version of the painting, owned by Norwegian businessman Petter Olsen, sold at Sotheby's in London for a record price of nearly US$120 million at auction on 2 May 2012. The bidding started at $40 million and lasted for over 12 minutes when American businessman Leon Black by phone gave the final offer of US$119,922,500, including the buyer's premium. Sotheby's said the painting was the most colorful and vibrant of the four versions painted by Munch and the only version whose frame was hand-painted by the artist to include his poem, detailing the work's inspiration. After the sale, Sotheby's auctioneer Tobias Meyer said the painting was "worth every penny", adding: "It is one of the great icons of art in the world and whoever bought it should be congratulated."
The previous record for the most expensive work of art sold at auction had been held by Picasso's Nude, Green Leaves and Bust, which went for US$106.5 million at Christie's two years prior on 4 May 2010. When accounting for inflation, the highest price paid for art at an auction is still held by Van Gogh's Portrait of Dr. Gachet, which sold for $82.5 million in 1990, or about $151 million 2012 dollars. There have been reports that The Card Players, by Cézanne, sold privately for $250m in 2011, which can not be verified for the establishment of a record price.
In popular culture
In the late twentieth century, The Scream was imitated, parodied, and (following its copyright expiration) outright copied, which led to it acquiring an iconic status in popular culture. It was used on the cover of some editions of Arthur Janov's book The Primal Scream. In 1983–1984, pop artist Andy Warhol made a series of silk prints copying works by Munch, including The Scream. His stated intention was to desacralize the painting by making it into a mass-reproducible object. Munch had already begun that process, however, by making a lithograph of the work for reproduction. Erró's ironic and irreverent treatment of Munch's masterpiece in his acrylic paintings The Second Scream (1967) and Ding Dong (1979) is considered a characteristic of post-modern art. The expression of Kevin McCallister (Macaulay Culkin) in the poster for the movie Home Alone was inspired by The Scream. Cartoonist Gary Larson included a "tribute" to The Scream (entitled The Whine) in his Wiener Dog Art painting and cartoon compilation, in which the central figure is replaced by a howling dachshund. The Scream has been used in advertising, in cartoons such as The Simpsons, films, and on television. The principal alien antagonists depicted in the 2011 BBC series of Doctor Who, named "The Silence", have an appearance partially based on The Scream. The Ghostface mask worn by the primary antagonists of the Scream series of horror movies is based on the painting, and was created by Brigitte Sleiertin, a Fun World employee, as a Halloween costume, prior to being discovered by Marianne Maddalena and Wes Craven for the film.
The painting features in chapter 12 of Philip K. Dick's novel, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? The two bounty hunters, Deckard and Resch are on the trail of Luba Luft, a suspect android. The painting is described as follows: "The painting showed a hairless, oppressed creature with a head like an inverted pear, its hands clapped in horror to its ears, its mouth open in a vast soundless scream. Twisted ripples of the creature's torment, echoes of its cry, flooded out into the air surrounding it: the man or woman, whichever it was, had become contained by its own howl."
A simplified version of the subject of the painting is one of the pictographs considered by the US Department of Energy for use as a non-language-specific symbol of danger in order to warn future human civilizations of the presence of radioactive waste.
1893: pastel on cardboard. As possibly the earliest version of The Scream, this pastel appears to be the sketch in which Munch mapped out the essentials of the composition.
1895: lithograph. Some 45 prints were made before the printer repurposed the lithograph stone.
1895: pastel on cardboard, was sold for more than US$120 million, at Sotheby's, in 2012.
1910: tempera on cardboard, was stolen from the Munch Museum in 2004, but recovered in 2006.
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