Sunday, September 21, 2008

The Scream

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The Scream (Skrik, 1893-1910) is a seminal series of expressionist paintings by Norwegian artist Edvard Munch, depicting an agonised figure against a blood red sky. The landscape in the background is Oslofjord, viewed from the hill of Ekeberg, in Oslo (then Kristiania), Norway.

Munch created several versions of The Scream in various media. The National Gallery of Norway holds one of two painted versions (1893, shown above). Munch Museum holds the other painted version (1910, shown below) and one pastel. A fourth version, in pastel, is owned by Norwegian billionaire Petter Olsen. Munch also created a lithograph (1895, shown below) of the image.

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In a page in his diary headed Nice 22.01.1892, Munch described his inspiration for the image thus:

"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.”

The reddish sky in the background was possibly caused by the aftermath of the powerful volcanic eruption of Krakatoa in 1883. The ash that was ejected from the volcano left the sky tinted red in much of eastern United States and most of Europe and Asia from November 1883 to February 1884.

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