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  • Anvesha Bezbaruah.

The Scream

The Scream, painted by the Norwegian artist Edvard Munch in 1893 is one of the most well-known paintings in art history along with Leonardo Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa and Van Gogh’s Starry-Starry Night. Over the years The Scream has been referenced on many different platforms such as movies, songs, photography and others. It has also been used to make various memes and social media posts. But what is the true meaning behind this renowned painting?

Fundamentally, the subject of this painting is not actually screaming.

As we can see in the painting the expression on the subject looks more like an anxious gasp for air rather than a scream. This can also be proven further by a quote from Munch himself where he discloses the inspiration for The Scream:

“I was walking along a path with two friends – the sun was setting – suddenly the sky turned blood red – I paused, feeling exhausted, and leaned on the fence – there was blood and tongues of fire above the blue-black fjord and the city – my friends walked on, and I stood there trembling with anxiety – and I sensed an infinite scream passing through nature.”

The original name of this painting is “The Scream of Nature”, which tells us that the subject is not actually screaming but rather is shielding itself from the screams of nature. You can also see the blood red sky that Munch mentions, as well as his friends walking ahead of him.

The Scream is a painting that embodies human fear and anxiety, something Munch struggled with all his life. The Scream is a part of one of Munch’s most famous series of paintings “The Frieze of Life”. This series embodies topics like love and death. All the paintings are in some way inspired by Munch’s life.

Munch was surrounded by loss and death from a very young age when his mother passed away 4 years after he was born, sending his father into a deep depression, leaving his mother’s sister to take care of his family.

His sadness compounded after the death of his sister Sophie who was suffering from tuberculosis, after which his youngest sister was diagnosed with a mental illness and sent to a psychiatric ward. The only sibling of the Munch family to have married, Andreas, also passed away shortly after his wedding leaving Munch alone with his father.

The Scream is a timeless painting and a symbol of the anguish, anxiety and melancholy felt by all people. It is extremely relevant to our times as we struggle through a pandemic and are surrounded by such emotions ourselves.

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