The Scream (1893)
An appropriate painting for Halloween, don’t you think? The scary thing about this painting is the artist, (Edvard) actually ‘saw’ this image while walking. Here’s an excerpt from his description of what actually happened:
“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 has led some commentators to propose that the person in the painting is not screaming, but reacting with despair to the scream passing through nature.
The scene is 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 Cathrine was interned in the mental hospital at the foot of Ekeberg.
In 2003, astronomers claimed to have identified the time that the painting depicted. The eruption of Krakatoa in 1883 caused unusually intense sunsets throughout Europe in the winter of 1883-4, which Munch captured in his picture.
Munch painted 4 versions of this painting. One of them was stolen from the Munch Museum in 2004 and hasn’t been recovered yet. As one of very few works of modern art that are instantly recognizable even to people who know very little about art, The Scream has been used in advertising, in cartoons and on television. The work has also fascinated film makers. Ghostface, the psychotic murderer in Wes Craven’s Scream horror movies, wears a Halloween mask inspired by the central figure in the painting. Child actor Macaulay Culkin’s pose in front of the mirror, in Home Alone, also refers ironically to Munch’s work. This painting is probably comprable to other iconic works of art like the Mona Lisa by da Vinci.
If you fancy this painting you can easily find it on coffee mugs, teeshirts and reproduced in print form to frame and hang above your sofa.