The Scream

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The angels of fear, sorrow, and death stood by my side since the day I was born.” –Edvard Munch*

Allelujah! I finally got out of the Upper East Side today and over to the MoMA.  I was incredibly excited to be able to have a first hand look at one version of the famous Scream (pastel-on-board 1895) by Edvard Munch.  It will only be there until April 29,2013 so hurry along if you haven’t caught it yet. Some of his other pieces of art are also on display alongside and they are amazing works as well.

I guess I had never thought much about it before, but what a melancholy character Munch seems to have been.  And apparently with good reason.  His mom died of TB when he was very young, as did his favorite older sister.  His father was a strict and pious physician who was always poor.  And he also suffered delicate physical health himself most of his life.

Paraphrased and quoted from Wikipedia:

Edvard Munch lived from December 1863 to January 1944.  He was a Norwegian painter and print maker that had “intense evocative treatment of psychological themes built upon some of the main tenets of late 19th-century Symbolism and greatly influenced German Expressionism in the early 20th century”

“The Scream” has been widely interpreted as representing the “universal anxiety of modern man”. 

He later described the personal anguish behind the painting, “for several years I was almost mad… You know my picture, ‘The Scream?’ I was stretched to the limit—nature was screaming in my blood… After that I gave up hope ever of being able to love again.”+

Apparently, it represents a memory of a moment when he was walking along a waterside path with a couple of friends. The friends had walked ahead and suddenly the sky turned red (sunset?) and he had a moment of intense anxiety come over him.

The Scream by Edvard Munch, Lithograph

The Scream by Edvard Munch, Lithograph

I guess it has universal appeal because we have all had moments like that in our life.  Without knowing the back story, as I saw it in person I wondered what the figure was screaming about: money? loss of control of something? despair over a woman?  I for one can think of any number of reasons….

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Edvard Munch, self-portrait

The Sick Child, by Edvard Munchapparently a reference to his elder sister who perished from Tuberculosis

The Sick Child, by Edvard Munch
apparently a reference to his elder sister who perished from Tuberculosis

Madonna, by Edvard Munchnotice the fetus who resembles the Scream figure, and the sperm in the border.  "from the male lover's vantage point".  Also possible halo overhead?

Madonna, by Edvard Munch
notice the fetus who resembles the Scream figure, and the sperm in the border. “from the male lover’s vantage point”. Also possible halo overhead?

*p 2 Prideaux, Sue (2005). Edvard Munch: Behind the Scream. New Haven: Yale University Press. ISBN 978-0-300-12401-9.

+p 152 Prideaux, Sue (2005). Edvard Munch: Behind the Scream. New Haven: Yale University Press. ISBN 978-0-300-12401-9.