10 Famous Paintings You Should Know: Number 4 – The Scream by Edvard Munch

The Scream

Can only have been painted by a madman!

A note written by Edvard Munch on The Scream.

There is a painting that struck a chord by summarising the genius but also capturing the Zeitgeist and the ignorance of the American public before Van Gogh rose to fame, the Iconic Scream by Edvard Munch.

A few important things to know about Edvard Munch.

Edvard Munch

With this painting there are a few things that are important, first of all Edvard Munch came from a really messed up family, whatever you’ve been through his family makes your family look like Coke Light.

His father was verbally abusive and he often used Munch’s dead mother to make them feel guilty. He said that their mother would not be proud of her children.

They were a very sickly mentally disturbed family and he also had a lot of mental health issues but the thing is he could paint really well and he developed his style over time into German expressionism.

When the final version of The Scream was completer, Munch checked himself into a mental hospital because he claimed he was hearing voices.  He often depicted his panic attacks and mental health issues in his artworks.

He painted  Anxiety, shortly after he painted The Scream, and they look freakily similar.

Anxiety by Edvard Munch

How many versions of Scream was made?

He chose to paint in this frame, it might look slapdash to the untrained eye. He actually made six versions of The Scream: a lot of pastel drawings until he finally decided on the final version to put down in oil. So he actually put a lot of consideration into this painting


What was his inspiration for this painting?

Now what actually happened is that Edvard went for a walk one afternoon – late afternoon almost evening – and he said he heard nature scream and it was a blood threatening shrill and only he heard it and everybody else went on with their lives. Now whatever what was wrong with Edvard was no small thing.

But what I do think is so incredible about The Scream, is that it was painted just before a massive turn in Germany. There was quite a lot of trouble and stirring where the Kaiser was losing right across Europe, people no longer want to follow monarchies, they want democracy or communism but they definitely don’t want to be ruled by a ruler – this happened in France, in Russia, in Britain, everywhere.

So there’s a lot of instability in the politics, we’ve got World War One. World War One kind of caused World War Two with the Treaty of Versailles.

We had the Great Depression and the Germans feeling very very oppressed, and we’ve got Hitler making his first oratory speech in 1933 which really struck with the Zeitgeist.

Time was ripe for a ruler like Hitler. The Germans wanted a hero they wanted to be led out of the Great Depression, and so Hitler stepped up to fill the role. Once Hitler stepped onto his soap box a lot of people bought in to his great oratory.

Another interesting fact is that Hitler himself was quite the artist.

The Courtyard of the Old Residency in Munich, Adolf Hitler

What was the Symbolism in Munch’s artwork?

Edvard Munch’s painting had a lot of symbolism.

Today it’s regarded as a warning, the preventative warning for the destruction that World War Two caused, it is seen as the absolute German anxiety with this German expressionism – the scream of the nation.

The artist is warning them, the whole sky almost feels like it’s filled with blood dripping into the water and it’s seen as a warning of what was to come – a warning that the German people didn’t heed to.

So this is why this painting is so famous, it is also used in modern psychology but it captures the angst and uncertainty of the German people during that time period.

The image of the Scream was often used in movies?

The Scream was so popular and has often been the inspiration of advertisers, movie makers and cartoonists.

Homer Simpson from the tv-series, Bart Simpson
Scream, The Movie

The mask worn by the bad guy in the series of Horror Movies, Scream was also inspired by this painting. It was designed as a Halloween costume by Brigitte Sleiertin.

Then it was discovered by producer Marianne Maddalena and director Wes Craven and they used in the 1996 horror movie.

The emoji.

And then, of course we all know and use this emoji! Yes, this was also inspired by Scream.

Read about other artworks in this series of 10 Famous Artworks. The Mona Lisa, The Last Supper, Starry night and the next one in the series, Geurnica

Please read about the other paintings in this series of 10 Famous paintings, The Mona Lisa, The Last Supper, Starry night, and number 6 Guernica,

2 thoughts on “10 Famous Paintings You Should Know: Number 4 – The Scream by Edvard Munch

  1. Pingback: 10 Famous Paintings You Should Know: Number 3 Starry Night by Vincent Van Gogh. - Lillian Gray - Art School

  2. Pingback: 10 Famous Paintings You Should Know: 6 The Kiss, Gustav Klimt - Lillian Gray - Art School

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