Art | The Scream at MoMA

Edvard Munch: The Scream
The Museum of Modern Art
New York City, USA
Until 29th April, 2013

Putting Edvard Munch’s The Scream on show at this time of year, when ghosts and ghouls are the order of the day, is something of a MoMA masterstroke. Almost as popular and recognisable an image as Leonardo’s Mona Lisa, The Scream has captured public imagination since 1895, when it was created. The artist’s masterpiece will, no doubt, be a huge draw. Of the four versions of the image produced between 1893 and 1910, this pastel is the only one remaining in private hands. Translated from the original Norwegian the words inscribed in red paint below it read:

‘I was walking along the road with two of my friends. The sun set – the sky became a bloody red. And I felt a touch of melancholy – I stood still, dead tired – over the blue-black fjord and city hung blood and tongues of fire. My friends walked on – I stayed behind – trembling with fright – I felt the great scream in nature.’

Associated, during the 1890s, with the international development of symbolism – which concerned itself with expressive representations of emotions and personal relationships – Munch is recognised as a precurser of 20th century expressionism, in which introspection and intuition are given precedence over more scientific approaches to art such as those found in naturalism and impressionism. The hairless figure under the yellow-orange sky is him and was originally conceived as part of the epic Frieze of Life series, which explored modern life by focusing on the themes of love, angst, and death. Like the rest of us, he would appear to have been just as fascinated by life’s horrors as by its beauty.

The MoMA exhibition also includes two paintings, The Storm and Melancholy, as well as eight of Munch’s prints. Among these are the woodcut, Angst, and his renowned Self-Portrait, both from 1895.

Edvard Munch images from top
The Scream, 1895
Pastel on board
© 2012 The Munch Museum/The Munch-Ellingsen Group/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Self Portrait, 1895, signed 1896
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of James L. Goodwin in memory of Philip L. Goodwin. 71.1959.
© 2012 The Munch Museum/The Munch-Ellingsen Group/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Angst, 1896, signed 1897
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Purchase 1174, 1968.
© 2012 The Munch Museum/The Munch-Ellingsen Group/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

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