Famous Artwork: The Scream

Editorial credit: Olga Popova / Shutterstock.com. A Norwegian stamp honoring the famous painting, circa 2013.
Editorial credit: Olga Popova / Shutterstock.com. A Norwegian stamp honoring the famous painting, circa 2013.

The Scream is one of the most famous paintings in the world. The Scream was created by a Norwegian artist known as Edvard Munch and was painted at the end of the 19th century; a time that was characterized by a unique transitional period in the history of art. At the time, artists were often judged by their technical skill, so most artists opted to paint their subjects objectively. However, the likes of Munch who represented a century of brave artists began using art to express their inner emotions, thoughts, and feelings instead. Munch often created his paintings by using simple shapes and exaggerated bright colors as he did on The Scream.


The Scream features a figure holding two elongated hands on either side of his hairless head which appears to be skull-like. The figure seems to be in emotional and psychological torment as depicted by its agonized expression. There is a blazing skyline behind the figure with two other figures at a distance. The type of art that Munch created was highly influenced by painful events in his life. At an early age of five, death robbed Munch of his mother who died of tuberculosis. Almost a decade later, Johanne Sophie who was Munch's favorite sister also died of tuberculosis. These two significant losses were also accompanied by the emotional unavailability of Munch's father who was suffering from psychotic depression, abject poverty, and constant illnesses. Edvard Munch never married but used to refer to his paintings as his children. For the last 27 years of his life, Evdard Munch became increasingly isolated and revered, living alone on his estate outside Oslo before he died at the age of 80. After that, numerous paintings, lithographs, woodcut blocks, drawings, lithographic stones, photographs, woodcuts etchings, and copperplates were recovered on the second floor of his estate behind locked doors.


Edvard Munch created four versions of The Scream, two paintings in 1893 and 1910 and two in pastels in 1893 and 1895. Several lithographs of the piece also exist created in 1895 and after.


The Scream is considered to be one of the world's most recognizable paintings. The piece has been widely interpreted as one that represents the modern man's universal anxiety. Employing a high view point, The Scream reduces the figure in the painting which appears to be in agony to an adorned skull in the turmoil of an emotional crisis. Through his painting, Munch was able to define how human beings view our age wracked with uncertainty and anxiety. Edvard Munch gave birth to a style of art that was later known as Expressionism.

Painting Location and Worth

A pastel version of the piece created in 1895 was sold on May 2, 2012 at auction for 119,922,500 US dollars which was inclusive of commission. This pastel piece was the most colorful of the four versions and the only one not held by a Norwegian Museum. The version of the painting was displayed at the Museum of Modern Art in New York between October 2012 and April 2013. The 1983 and 1910 versions were independently stolen in 1994 and 2004 respectively but were later recovered.


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