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THE SCREAM – MUNCH

“I was walking along the road 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.”

Edvard Munch added the above self-authored poem to the second copy of his famous work “The Scream”, which he completed in 1895.  The poem reflects the memory and feeling which Munch designed his work upon.

The elements of the poem are quite clearly observed within the painting. The bridge that the figures walk on, the fence on the bridge, the friends walking away, the city in the background and the blue-black fjord can easily be pointed out. As described by Munch himself, the sky is painted in blood red and is covered in fiery clouds in movement. The screaming figure in the foreground portrays the artist himself according to his definition.

Munch’s painting communicates with the audience in an easy and effective way. Any viewer, even without any background information, can simply evaluate the painting with personal observation. The uneasy figure in the foreground disturbs the viewer at first glance. The look on his face mixed of fear, anxiety, surprise and insanity evokes a feeling of uneasiness and tells that something is not right. The figure screams in terror with his head in his hands. With his bent body he expresses that he is also in panic. The extraordinary look, the posture and the curled body of the figure contrasts with the “straight” looking two other figures going along the bridge. This also shows that the figure is in a different mood than the other two.

The screaming figure’s head, hands and curled body is in harmony with the wavy forms of the fjord, mountains and the clouds.  On the other hand, the two background figures show parallelity with the straight lines of the bridge with their straight looking silhouettes. As explained by Munch, only the figure feeling the scream passing through nature, has united with the nature physically and emotionally.

Having a great deal of influence on the Expressionist movement, The Scream, reflects the main characteristics of the movement successfully. The wavy and thick brushstrokes, contrasting colours and the distorted forms are utilised not to express the physical reality but the human nature and emotions. Despite its surprisingly simple structure, the painting presents the current emotional mood to the viewer with an absolute clarity and expressiveness. No viewer can tell that the main figure is happy or content. It is astonishing to realize how Munch created such an anxious and terrified look on the figure with such simplicity in the painting.

After the Mona Lisa, The Scream is regarded as one of the biggest icons of our time. It has taken an indisputable place in our collective cultural consciousness with this sexless skull-shaped head, elongated hands, wide eyes, open nostrils and ovoid mouth. Imitated and copied numerous times in the art history, this screaming face has also inspired the mask in the popular thriller movie series “Scream”.

Location: National Gallery of Norway, Oslo
Date: 1893
Period: 19th Century
Movement: Expressionism

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