28 February 2010


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


  1. Most students these days would no more about 'The Scream' student theme pubs rather than the painting I imagine...

    ...including the Art students...

  2. On a more superficial level, I used to feel like the model for that painting whenever I took Elder Daughter out on driving practice. ;)

  3. Thanks for that,YP.
    Yes, I think that you are right; Munch used his art work in very much the same way as Ibsen used the written word and 'spoke' from the depths of his experience - the bereavements he had in his early life,alone, were more than many can cope with. He himself said,"We want more than a mere photograph of nature. We do not want to paint pretty pictures to be hung on drawing-room walls. We want to create, or at least lay the foundations of, an art that gives something to humanity. An art that arrests and engages. An art created of one's innermost heart."
    Had he not had the personal catharsis of creating the 'frieze of life' pictures and the man-destroying vampire that others saw as so objectionable, he may not have found the strength to move on to the more uplifting 'Dance of Life'.
    The friendship between him and Ibsen must have been something to behold - did he not even paint some of the sets for Ibsen's plays? x

  4. BOOTHERS/JENNY/ELIZABETH - My blog seems to be turning into a cultural meeting house. I will have to seek out some less illustrious subjects in order to return to the drainage channels where it belongs. I know my place.....JENNY I assume she passed. Having met you I can confirm that you are somewhat better looking than the strange person in Munch's painting.
    ELIZABETH - You have taught me something. I wasn't aware that Ibsen and Munch were associates as the former was so much older than the latter. However, population-wise Norway was and remains a "small" country and so I guess that intellectual birds of a feather would have flocked together.

  5. Elizabeth5:42 pm

    Ha, culture will out, my friend ... x


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