The Scream

Although I have absolutely no talent in either direction I love music and art. I’ve shared plenty of music with you but only once before have I posted on art. It really is time to start redressing the balance!

A painting that has always fascinated me is this one:


This is a very familiar image, known to most as The Scream, by Edvard Munch, although its full title is actually The Scream Of Nature. Between 1893 and 1910 Munch painted four versions, two each in oil and pastel. You may recognise it from news stories about one of these being stolen from the National Gallery in London in 1994, or of another from the Munch Museum in Oslo in 2004  Both were subsequently recovered. Or perhaps from the sale of one of the pastel versions in 2012 for more than $119m!  Or maybe if you were a student it featured among the postcards you used to decorate your university lodgings with – I did!


Munch also created a lithograph version of the painting, which I find in some ways more powerful in black and white than the colour versions. I think it’s something in the way it highlights the sense of desperation in its monochrome setting.

Munch himself described the inspiration for The Scream in his diary: ‘One evening I was walking along a path, the city was on one side and the fjord below. I felt tired and ill. I stopped and looked out over the fjord – the sun was setting, and the clouds turning blood red. I sensed a scream passing through nature; it seemed to me that I heard the scream. I painted this picture, painted the clouds as actual blood. The colour shrieked. This became The Scream.’ 

imageOver the years the image has been used in a variety of ways. There have been a number of versions which appropriate the image – Homer Simpson, anyone?


imageThe image has also been used in other ways too. I think this dress just about pulls it off, but as a Christmas tree decoration?!image No no no!!




Michael Palin with an inflatable Scream – picture from the South China Morning Post, taken by Basil Pao

I was looking for an image of an inflatable version of the painting’s figure, and came across this one of Michael Palin, which gives you a good idea of the size of the blow up model! I wanted to show you one of these for a reason. Given what the painting stands for, it is perhaps surprising that I first saw one of these inflatables in a colleague’s office when I was working for the NHS. This guy was an eminent Professor and Consultant in Psychiatry, and sometimes used his office as a consulting room for patients. The model was placed on top of a filing cabinet, facing directly at the door, so it was all that you saw when you first entered the room. It took me aback, so I can only guess and fear at the reaction for patients! But I’m no psychiatrist, and he was very good at it – I asked him about it and he told me that reactions were very varied, but he used it as a talking point, to help people explain how they related to it as a way of drawing out their thoughts and feelings. He’s a very clever man so I’m pretty sure he knew exactly what he was doing. Art became life!

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