Feel Art Again: 'The Scream'

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Munch - Scream1.jpg
Back in October, we covered the most famous smile in history, the "Mona Lisa." Today let's take a look at the most famous scream in history, Edvard Munch's "Skrik" ("The Scream"), in honor of the artist's birthday tomorrow.

1. Edvard Munch's family suffered many tragedies, including the death of their mother and an older sister, Sophie, of tuberculosis. Their father also died young and the only sibling to marry died a few months after the wedding. A younger sister, Laura Catherine, was diagnosed with manic depression at an early age and was in a mental hospital near the setting of "Scream" at the time Munch painted it.

2. The painting was inspired by a walk Munch took with friends, during which he saw the sun setting in a blood red sky, possibly a result of the volcanic eruption of Krakatoa in 1883. Munch "sensed an infinite scream passing through nature." Some theories hold that the person in the foreground is the artist, not screaming, but protecting himself from Nature's scream.

3. Robert Rosenblum, a Munch scholar, suggested in 1978 that Munch based the "Scream" figure on a Peruvian mummy that he may have seen at the 1889 Exposition Universelle in Paris. This same mummy served as the model for figures in two paintings by Paul Gauguin, a friend of Munch. An Italian anthropologist, though, believes the figure may have been based on a mummy at Florence's Museum of Natural History, as there is a stronger resemblance between the two.

4. Four versions of the painting were created by Munch, as well as a lithograph that he created so the image could be reproduced in reviews. One of the originals was stolen from the National Gallery in Norway on the day the 1994 Winter Olympics opened in Lillehammer. It was recovered about four months later in a sting operation. A second original, along with Munch's "Madonna," was stolen at gunpoint from the Munch Museum in 2004. The paintings were recovered a year later, after multiple offers of rewards, including an offer from Masterfoods USA of 2 million M&Ms.

5. In 1892, Munch was invited by the Union of Berlin Artists to exhibit at its November exhibition, but his paintings evoked bitter controversy, and the exhibition closed after one week. A little more than thirty years later, the Nazis labeled Munch's work "degenerate art" and removed it from all the German museums. Munch was deeply hurt, because he had come to think of Germany as his second homeland.

6. The Norwegian 1,000 Kroner note features Edvard Munch, along with pictures inspired by his artwork.

'Feel Art Again' appears every Tuesday and Thursday.

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December 11, 2007 - 2:23pm
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