This famous painting, "The Scream", was created by the Norwegian artist Edvard Munch in 1893. Actually it is one of a series of very similar pictures that Munch made - all called "The Scream". It has come to act as a metaphor for modern living in which a stressed out individual screams out at the world around him - a world which threatens both to ignore and to crush him.
Back in 2004, when I paid the princely sum of £34 for a Ryanair return flight to Oslo, not only did I want to see Ibsen's hometown, I also wanted to walk by the still waters of the Oslo Fiord, see Viglen's famous sculpture park, Thor Heyerdahl's Kon Tiki Museum, the Viking Ships Museum and the Munch Art Museum. That summer the most famous version of "The Scream" was stolen so that when I got to the art museum on Oslo's quiet inner ring road, there was just a space where the original should have been. Fortunately it was retrieved in 2006
From what sort of inventive mind did this disturbing picture surface? Munch came from a creative middle class family. His father was obsessive about religion to such an extent that the painter once said that he had inherited "the seeds of madness" from his father. One summer night, it seems that Munch took a walk along a wooden promenade on the Oslo Fjord. Trying to explain the inspiration he felt that evening, he said:-
I was walking down the road with two friends when the sun set; suddenly, the sky turned as red as blood. I stopped and leaned against the fence, feeling unspeakably tired. Tongues of fire and blood stretched over the bluish black fjord. My friends went on walking, while I lagged behind, shivering with fear. Then I heard the enormous, infinite scream of nature.
At the Munch Museum I bought a poster-print advertising an exhibition of Munch's work in 1997. The central image is naturally of "The Scream". I had that print framed and it now adorns a wall in our living room. I like the way the paint strokes flow. I like the slightly alien appearance of the central character and I notice very clearly his lonely anxiety - as if the world has become too much for him - so much so that those fluent brush strokes seem to represent his inner turmoil. It is, in my view, a painting that was ahead of its time - drawn from the dark obscurity of Norwegian winters and from the sort of social repression that Ibsen explored with language.
Edvard Munch at 29