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The secrets of the Scream

18 octobre 2016

Realized by the Norwegian artist Edvard Munch in 1893, The Scream, which, besides being the major artwork of European Expressionism, is a global icon of the twentieth century belonging to the collective memory. Many and many times decrypted, analyzed and interpreted, the painting still hides some secrets.

A painting with five branches

Preserved in the Nasjonalmuseet in Oslo and known to all eyes, the first version of "The Scream", from 1893, which is a tempera on cardboard, is not the only version! Edvard Munch indeed created five variations of his most famous painting: a pastel colorful in 1895, which was owned by the Norwegian Petter Olsen before being auctioned in May 2012 for the huge amount of 119.92 million of dollars. A second tempera on cardboard dating back to 1910, similar to the original, followed by a fourth version scratched in pencil, are visible and also exhibited to the Nasjonalmuseet of Oslo. A final version was born in 1895 in Berlin, as a lithograph, a precious work since its printing stone was destroyed soon after.

The one who screams is not the one we believed

By seeing for the first time the artwork of Edvard Munch, one is easily carried away by the assumption that the painting depicts a being who, frightened by something or someone than can be see, howls of terror. Especially as the title given to the artwork, The Scream, keeps well the confusion. In fact, this is an incorrect interpretation! Indeed, the main character of the canvas, which would actually be Edvard Munch himself, to rely upon the note associated with the work, is indeed scared, but by a howl that is not his. Skeletal, he puts his head in his hand, presumably to prevent a sharp and bitter cry to reach his ears. Autobiographical work, this scream could be an illusion when you look at the eventful history of Edvard Munch. Devoured by an obscure childhood, the painter is a troubled man who is plagued by many phantasmagoric delusions. His diary associated with the "Scream" proves it with no doubt: "I was walking along a path with two friends - the sun was setting down – suddenly, the sky turned blood red, I paused, tired, and leaned on a fence - there was blood and tongues of fire above the blue-black fjord of the city - my friends continued, and I stayed there trembling with anxiety - I felt an infinite scream was going through the universe and tore nature."

Mummy inspiration

Painting with a disturbing power, the face of the main character is the most disturbing thing. Who did the frightened man steal his realistic traits? In 1978, Robert Rosenblum, a specialist of the work of Munch, a researcher for the University of Oxford and Legion of Honour, is suggesting that the singular “creature" is inspired by a Peruvian mummy Chachapoyas, that Edvard Munch could have seen at the “Exposition Universelle” of 1889 in Paris. Placed in a fetal position, his hands framing her face, the mummy indeed presents a striking resemblance with the painting of the Norwegian master. Also crossed by Paul Gauguin, this mummy stands in Human Trocadero Museum, and was included by the painter in his painting "D’où venons-nous ? Que sommes-nous ? Où allons-nous ? "

Reasons of color

In the heart of the 1880-1890 years, Edvard Munch likes to get inspired with color and light that he saw during his excursions in the countryside and on the Norwegian fjords. But then, why is the sky in The Scream so full of red blood, orange tones and of a flamboyant palette? Besides the symbolic color which is not innocent for Munch's wishes to represent suffering, the explanation is simply to find in a unique natural and climatic event! In 1883, the Krakatoa, a gray volcano of Indonesia, erupted to produce one of the most violent explosions of the history. The noise caused by the disaster would be the strongest heard by human ears ever: reached nearly 180 decibels to 160 kilometers away, it killed all persons within 20 km. Giant waves, 46 meters for the most impressive, swept through Asia and Africa while the volcanic ash plumes rose to 80 kilometers into the atmosphere. This dust is the cause of flaming sunsets observed to Europe and even in the United States. Certainly witness of several of them, Edvard Munch was largely inspired to set the color chart of the sky of its Scream.

A lot of steals

While the version of 1895, owned by Petter Olsen and auctioned in 2012, was during a while the most expensive painting in the world with nearly $120 million, two of its "sisters" were also very desired to the point of falling into hands of thieves. On 12 February 1994, the Scream of Oslo Nasjonalmuseet was stolen. While the Norwegian anti-abortion groups are suspected, the artwork is offered a few weeks later to the government against $1.2 million. The artwork was finally found intact in May of the same year by the Norwegian police in a hotel in Asgardstrand. Ten years later, in August 2004, it is the version of 1910 which is robbed in daylight by a commando of armed men along with “The Madonna”. Imagined burned, disappeared, the paintings were finally found two years later in a good condition. The masterpieces have since found their place on the walls of Oslo Nasjonalmuseet, admired but also watched by millions of eyes.

The Scream and its echoes

Reproduced countless times, The Scream belongs to the world's collective memory. The Financial Times suggests that this is the most recognizable artwork in the world after the Mona Lisa. His reputation and influence have broken the borders of Norway and of the world of art for a long time. Nothing extraordinary then to see that this masterpiece is the subject of reproductions and other diversions even inspiring pop-culture. Andy Warhol produces many serigraphs, advertisements like the one for M&M's do not hesitate to place their products into the painting. Can be names The Ghostface made famous by Wes Craven and his saga of horror films "Scream", the movie poster "Mom I missed the plane" or "The Strange Christmas of Mr Jack" that all pay tribute to the artwork of Master Munch.

Fauve, the Expressionism-pleasure

Fascinated from childhood by painting, Fauve learned alone inspired with books of Art history. Became secretary, she did not give up her passion and even devoted herself fully in 2000 by opening "L'Atelier Fauve" in Roanne (42) before transferring it to Saint-Haon-le-Châtel (42). Largely inspired by the expressionists like Edvard Munch, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Egon Schiele and by Jean Dubuffet, the Father of Art Brut, Fauve constructed her paintings from festive colors on which she features fictitious female characters. She shares her taste for pleasures of life and paints daily life scenes. At the edge of nostalgic and melancholy, her characters are almost caricatures with generally cheerful look.