N°125 The Scream
On this Halloween weekend we thought it would be appropriate to talk about the scary but iconic expressionist painting The Scream, by the Norwegian painter Edvard Munch. The painter himself was the subject of #NordicArtSunday n°27, accessible here and on our Instagram.
The Scream (Original title: Skrik) was painted in the year 1893 and depicts a swirling sky in shades of red and yellow, a person with distorted features and an anxious face in the foreground, holding their hands up to their face and appears to be screaming, or at least their mouth is frozen wide open. It is essentially based on Munchs’s own experience of depression and has since become a symbol of anxiety and the pain of mental distress or illness.
Munch made a few versions of the Scream making slight changes each time. On one oil painting version there is a pencil inscription in the upper left corner, added by Munch after the painting was finished. It can only be seen on close examination of the artwork, and it says “Kan kun være malet af en gal Mand!” (“could only have been painted by a madman”) The theory is that he is quoting a comment made by a visitor at the show where Munch first showcased the painting. Apparently, he was deeply hurt by it, being sensitive to judgement on mental illnesses, as it was something he knew much about.
The Scream has been parodied and imitated a lot in popular culture. Andy Warhol made a series of silk prints of the Scream, Home Alone character Kevin McCallister famously held his hands to his face in a Scream-manner, the killer Ghostface from the Scream movies wears a Scream Halloween mask and there is even a Scream emoji.