The Scream is the popular name for a painting by Norwegian artist Edvard Munch in 1893.
It is one of the most famous paintings of all time and the source of countless parodies.
In the painting Munch portrays himself as a robed, bald, monk-like figure, hands clasping his face, his mouth an oval of anguish. He stands alone on a dock under a bright swirling yellow-orange sky. That sky is a sinister aurora borealis, a radioactive blaze.
He is having a panic attack.
His agonized face in the painting has become one of the most iconic images in art.
The image has become a universal symbol of angst and existential dread.
“The air became like blood – with piercing strands of fire … I felt a great scream – and I actually heard a great scream.” ~Edvard Munch
The work of art is a scream of freedom. ~ Christo
Messages you can use:
Be careful who you vent to.
Even the nicest people have their limits.
I wake up every day with a good attitude. Then idiots intrude.
Not my circus, not my monkeys.
I can only please one person a day. Today I choose me.
Aliens walk among us.
I don’t need anger management, I need you to stop making me angry.
The Scream in popular culture:
the emoji U+1F631 😱 FACE SCREAMING IN FEAR is made to resemble the subject of the painting.
The U.S. Department of Energy uses a Scream pictograph as a non-language-specific symbol of danger in order to warn future human civilizations of the presence of radioactive waste.
Macaulay Culkin’s expression in the poster for the movie Home Alone was inspired by The Scream.
The BBC Series “Dr Who” is inspired by the Scream.
In his diary, Munch wrote of his dreadful vision:
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.
Besides being one of the most recognizable images ever — reproduced on everything from mugs and T-shirts to key chains and inflatable dolls — “The Scream” is also one of the most tempting to thieves. Versions have been stolen twice, and recovered.
Today, The Scream is considered to be a masterpiece. With its vibrant and unrealistic colors, it shows a new way of creating art. It is a turning point between the symbolist and expressionist movements.
In 2012, one of the versions of The Scream was sold at auction at Sotheby’s New York for $119.92 million!
The Scream also happens to be Tracey Emin’s favorite historical painting: in 1998, she even made a film in which she visited a Norwegian fjord and hollered for a full minute, while the camera lingered on the water.
The charismatic Serbian performance artist Marina Abramovic persuaded inhabitants of Oslo to scream in public as a tribute to Munch.
Munch is a macabre poet of darkness, vampires, murder. His art is erotic and perverse. Van Gogh, in the cornfield, is a believer. He is all love.
Scholars have located the spot where Munch had his vision, to a fiord overlooking Oslo. They have suggested explanations for the unnaturally orange sky Munch witnessed. Some said Munch saw the effects of a volcanic eruption. Other scholars said Munch was having a psychological reaction to his sister’s commitment at a nearby lunatic asylum.
Art journalist Arthur Lubow described The Scream as the Mona Lisa of Modern Art. It has been widely interpreted as representing the universal anxiety of modern humanity.
Munch created 4 versions, 2 in paint and 2 in pastel. The version at the National Museum of Norway has a pencil inscription, in small lettering, in the upper left corner of the painting, saying “Kan kun være malet af en gal Mand!” Which translates: “could only have been painted by a madman.”
Munch and his contemporary, Van Gogh, heard a music, or a scream, in nature that connected artist and sky, artist and fields. The way they set down this holistic, extreme sensitivity created a new kind of art, Expressionism.