The Scream: Unhinged Anxiety Personified by Edvard Munch

Cover page depicting The Scream by Edvard Munch.

The personification of anxiety and horror which is sure to run a chill down your spine; that is The Scream painting for you in short. 

Imagine a grotesque face with a hollow yet horrified expression, with frail hands on the figure’s sunken face in shock. 

The hues of red blatantly stand out, warm crimsons and oranges, weaving a story untold, representing the psyche. 

This is everything that will come to a person’s mind when they think of Edvard Munch’s The Scream. 

An infamous, one of a kind painting from modern art, that has been studied now for years and years. 

But what is the true story behind this eerie painting?

What exactly inspired the artist to draw it? 

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And why acknowledge it as something born out of anxiety? 

There are so many questions to unfold with this particular mysterious painting. 

In today’s blog let us discuss this intriguing artwork that is known worldwide! 

“From the moment of my birth, the angels of anxiety, worry , and death stood at my side, followed me when I played , followed me…

…And I would often wake up at night and stare widely into the room: Am I in Hell?”

This quote is by the artist himself, Edvard Munch, which gives us an idea about him and his life. 

Before I take you through analyzing the screaming man painting, I think it is important to look into the man who painted The Scream and his story! 

Can you imagine owning this painting? 

The Expressionist Who Painted the Scream

Photograph of Edvard Munch
Image source: Getty Images

The Norwegian expressionist artist, Edvard Munch, was born on the 12th of December, 1863. 

Munch was a painter and printmaker infamous for his psychological themes.

Edvard Munch’s famous paintings are definitely not random, as each of them have been gravely influenced by his own life events. 

To get an idea of his paintings, especially The Scream, we need to understand the environment he grew up in.

Not only was Munch born into a middle-class family, but unfortunately  his whole family suffered from poor health, both mentally and physically. 

He is someone who has suffered from the many deaths of his family members. 

Just at the young age of five, he lost both his mother and his sister to Tuberculosis. 

Soon after, Munch also lost his father and brother to the hands of death. 

He was left all alone with the only living member of his family, his second sister, who was also mentally ill.

Can it get more depressing?

The artist himself had once said, 

“Illness, sanity and death were the black angels that kept watch over my cradle and accompanied me all my life.” 

The deaths and insanity that he experienced had an immense effect on him and his art. 

After all that pain and misery, are you even surprised that his art was intensely psychological? 

It is believed that Munch himself suffered from mental illnesses, or the anxiety of having them, which I feel is obvious after having dealt with so much loss. 

Art to the Rescue

It is almost as though art came to Munch’s rescue at a very early stage of his life. 

Although he was not exposed to formal training, it is as though art became his coping mechanism. 

Munch was assimilated to French Impressionism during his trip to Paris. 

His interest did not last much as he was introduced to the Expressionism movement and soon became one of the most famous expressionist artists. 

This evolution from impressionism to expressionism is in fact what inspired The Scream

What Leonardo da Vinci did with Mona Lisa during the Renaissance movement, Edvard Munch did with The Scream during the expressionism movement! 

Now that we know how phenomenal The Scream painting is, let us dive right into its meaning! 

Unwinding the Story Behind The Scream

Portrait of Edvard Munch
Image source: Getty Images

“For as long as I remember I have suffered from a deep feeling of anxiety, which I have tried to express in my art. 

Without anxiety and illness, I should have been like a ship without a rudder.”

Edvard Munch was very open about his mental health struggles and how he tried to express them through his art. 

This is also why the famous painting The Scream is the best example that helps us see how his struggles were turned into art! 

This only makes us wonder about The Scream painting’s meaning. 

Did you know that The Scream painting by Edvard Munch is an autobiographical artwork? 

Yes, by painting The Scream, Munch was putting out a real life memory where he suffered from an anxiety attack.

The Scream painting is an expressionist construct that purely depicts inner human agony.

Events Explained by Munch

Munch was on his walk on a bridge during sunset, when he heard a piercing, excruciating noise from nature, and within him at the same time! 

This “noise” from nature can be understood as an overwhelming response of his own mental state.

Munch personifies this unhinged memory through his painting, The Scream, which takes the form of neither a man or a woman, but just a distressed genderless face with a horrifying expression.

The anxiety he experienced overtook his whole body, so much that he had to pause and lean on the fence to understand what was happening. 

His rendering of this memory is painted in a ghostly setting, using somber and warm hues together, representing his anxiety. 

And did you know that he was not alone when the event happened? 

Yes, if you closely observe the painting you can notice two shadowy figures on the bridge, seemingly walking together. 

He narrates the experience as something that was experienced alone, and not shared by his friends. 

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Just like Vincent van Gogh’s paintings, Munch’s The Scream too carried a certain kind of eeriness that was depicted from the usage of colors to the brush strokes. 

And because the painting carried so much insight into the artist’s mental state with the kind of graphic depiction, it became a painting like never before.

There are so many little elements packed into this painting, The Scream, that it is necessary we look into it bit by bit! 

Recommended Read- The Starry Night by Van Gogh: An Escape from a Horrifying Reality

Dissecting The Scream

two men holding the painting The Scream.
Image source: Getty Images

Just like there is a hidden meaning in Claude Monet’s painting of the Water Lilies, and Salvador Dali’s painting called The Persistence of Memory, even The Scream by Edvard Munch has a deep meaning within it. 

The Grotesque Face in Horror

The face from The Scream painting focused.
Image source: Wikipedia

We briefly mentioned the infamous facial expression that is depicted in the painting The Scream, now let us give it a closer look. 

Although the event painted was from Munch’s personal experience, we cannot really call The Scream a self-portrait. 

Why so, you would ask?

Because the figure painted by Munch is genderless. In fact, one could argue that it is barely human. 

This grotesque face from the screaming “man” painting is almost hollow, a round figure with no proper eyes or mouth. 

Both eyes and mouth are represented with circles, to convey shock and distress. 

This ghostly face is covered with both hands on the sides, which either depicts covering the ears from the noise from nature, or the panic from within. 

The Figures in the Background

The two figures focused from the The Scream painting.
Image source: Wikipedia

We cannot ignore the two prominent, shadowy figures in the painting.

They seem to be walking on the same bridge, not too far from the central figure. 

Munch explains that they were his friends who were in the scene when the anxiety attack happened. 

But what does it signify by putting these figures in the background?

As you can notice, they are painted in dark colors, almost like  shadows. 

What can we decipher from this? 

That the artist acknowledges their presence, or wanted to convey how they were in the same vicinity, but he felt completely alienated through his experience.

“…my friends walked on, and I stood there trembling with angst…” 

It is also a way of depicting how these immensely overwhelming emotions cannot be shared, and becomes extremely personal. 

The Sunset and the Hues 

The sunset and hues focused from The Scream painting.
Image source: Wikipedia

When you give one look at The Scream painting, apart from the screaming face, what we notice is  the sky and the hues. 

“…suddenly the sky turned blood red- I paused, feeling exhausted…

…there was blood and tongues of fire above the blue-black fjord and the city…”

These were again the words of Edvard Munch recalling the experience. 

He wanted the painting to represent exactly what he saw and experienced, that is why we can see a lot of  warm colors especially reds.

Red also depicts danger, which is again an appropriate representation of the anxiety felt by Munch.

Apart from this there are dark somber colors used in the painting, along with some blue, representing the water behind him. 

Significance of Munch’s Art Technique

A self-portrait of Edvard Munch.
Image source: Getty Images

From dissecting and analyzing the painting, we have understood that there is so much technique and style that Munch poured into painting The Scream. 

Let us look at what techniques went into creating The Scream artwork. 

We can see the painting has free flowing lines all over. 

Along with this there are diagonal brush strokes. 

This was an Edvard munch specialty!

If you notice, most of his paintings have the same art technique.

Contemporaries and artists noticed how this flowing usage of lines in his new set of paintings also represented the Art Nouveau

What we need to acknowledge here is that Munch did not use these lines in a decorational sense.

Instead, he used it to express and represent the psychological side. 

This makes his paintings, especially The Scream, extremely unique. 

Did you know that Munch, like many of his contemporaries, was influenced by Japanese art? 

He has used the Japanese tradition of woodcutting, and even experimented with different mediums, which was almost always a success!

Furthermore, this particular brush stroke style helped him put on the best work as an expressionist artist. 

Some Interesting Facts about The Scream

Photograph of Edvard Munch painting.
Image source: Getty Images

Now that we know about the artist, story and technique behind the painting The Scream, how about we look into some intriguing facts?

  • Did you know that there is not one, not two, but several versions of The Scream by Evard Munch? 

So if you ask which is the “original” screaming man painting, nobody knows, because they are all original ones by the artist. 

  • Where is The Scream painting? As I mentioned there are several versions, from which two of them are paintings. 

One of them belongs to the Munch Museum, while the other belongs to the National Gallery in Oslo. 

  • As there were so many versions of The Scream, and other paintings that had a similar theme, Munch called this series of artworks as ‘Frieze of Life’. 
  • Did you know that one of The Scream paintings had the inscription, “Can only have been painted by a madman” on the painting which was done by none other than the artist himself. 
  • How many of you knew that The Scream had become a universal symbol and even been represented in pop culture? 

Remember the movie, Home Alone, and Macaulay Culkin’s infamous grimace? Yes, that was too inspired from Edvard Munch’s The Scream! 

Do you wish to have this moving piece of artwork in the premises of your own home?

You can now avail the Reproduction Paintings services at PortraitFlip and get a replica of your favorite painting! 

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Author’s Greetings! 

Hello Everyone!

I hope you enjoyed reading my blog and are more curious about Edvard Munch and his art works.

If you have any queries, please do reach out to me in the comments and do not forget to connect with us on Instagram and YouTube!

Till the next time,

Cheers xx

Frequently Asked Questions

When and where was The Scream by Edvard Munch painted?

The Scream by Edvard Munch was painted in the year 1893, in Berlin.

How many versions of The Scream paintings exist?

In total, there are four versions of The Scream by the artist Edvard Munch.

What is the price of the painting The Scream?

The Scream, painted by Edvard Munch, cost $119.9 million and was sold at a Sotheby’s auction in 2012 in New York. It became the most expensive painting ever sold at an auction.

1 thoughts on “The Scream: Unhinged Anxiety Personified by Edvard Munch

  1. Bunkerintegrated says:

    The Scream is an iconic masterpiece, capturing the agony of modern life. Edvard Munch’s use of color and expression is unparalleled. This painting speaks to the human condition like no other.thanks for sharing this blog

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