You must have seen Edvard Munch’s The Scream painting somewhere. In a coffee mug, on a bag, or in a cartoon. This painting is one of the most popular paintings in the world.
What kind of mood was Edvard Munch in making this painting? When did Edvard Munch paint the scream? Why is the figure in the painting looking with a strange expression and where does that famous red sky come from?
If you are curious about Edvard Munch’s paintings, deplorable life, and the story of The Scream painting, you should check out this post.
The Life of Edvard Munch and Paintings (1863 – 1944)
If you think Van Gogh is the painter with the most unfortunate, saddest life story, it’s because you don’t know Edvard Munch yet. Edvard Munch has such a sad life story that Van Gogh’s life can even be considered cheerful compared to Edvard Munch’s life. Van Gogh had at least a happy childhood.
The most surprising and admirable aspect of Edvard Munch is that he has survived despite all the pain he has suffered and has managed to turn his suffering into magnificent art. The most magnificent expression of this suffering turned into art is “a scream towards the universe”.
Edvard Munch was the son of military doctor Christian Munch, who met and married Laura Catherine Bjölstad in the 1860s when he was in a small town called Loten in Norway. Edvard was the second child of this couple, born in 1863.
His mother died of tuberculosis, and Edvard continued to have a difficult childhood under the influence of his depressed father. At the age of 13, he was on the verge of death from bronchitis. Her sister was not as lucky as him, she died at the age of 15 from tuberculosis.
Edvard Munch did not have many options for dealing with the trauma of childhood losses. When he was sitting by the stove at home, he liked to make sketches of the burnt coals in the furnace. But his father had unusual ideas about painters. He saw the painters as “godless bohemians” and wanted Edvard to be an engineer. After a while, Edvard Munch told his father that he wanted to study painting. Despite his father’s strong opposition, he enrolled at the art institute in Norway.
The art light shining at Edvard Munch immediately attracted attention and appreciation.
Radical Changes Painting by Edvard Munch
Edvard Munch could go along with the traditional style, find buyers for his paintings, and calm his father’s nerves by paying his expenses. Of course, he did not adopt this idea. He allied himself with the most extraordinary art elements. He also crossed paths with a group of bohemians who read Nietzsche and advocated suicide.
He started his first masterpiece in 1885. The Sick Child painting showed her sister, Sophie, on her deathbed. He shed a lot of tears while working on this painting. Inspired by these tears, he sprayed a bottle of thinner on the canvas.
Munch, thinking that the emotional value of the work would be appreciated by the audience, exhibited the painting in 1886. While waiting for appreciation, he became a mockery.
Life on the Edge of Suicide
Of course, this was not the only problem for Munch. He had an angry father at home and a sister who showed signs of early schizophrenia.
The only positive sign of all this negativity was the state scholarship given to him to study in Paris. But that didn’t bring Munch happiness, either. His father died in November 1889. At that time, he wrote in his diary, “I live with the dead,” in the great depression. Suicide was now a good option for Munch.
Fortunately, Edvard Munch didn’t succumb to the suicidal idea that lingered on his mind. A few years later he received an invitation from the Association of German Artists to organize a solo exhibition.
The exhibition opened in November 1892 and, as usual, negative reactions were predominant. The association made an emergency meeting and decided to close the exhibition. This decision caused the reaction of the young painters within the association. These members left the association and took care of Edvard Munch. In Munch’s words, this was “the best thing that could have happened to him”
Edvard Munch stayed in Germany.
The Scream (The Scream of Nature)
Munch’s The Scream is an icon of modern art, the Mona Lisa for our time. As Leonardo da Vinci evoked a Renaissance ideal of serenity and self-control, Munch defined how we see our own age – wracked with anxiety and uncertainty.
Munch used to draw from suffering, perhaps the best subject he still knew. He started to work on his best-known work in 1893. He wrote down what was on his mind from a walk-in Kristiania (in Norway) a few years ago in his diary.
“I was walking along the road with two friends – the sun was setting – suddenly the sky turned blood red – I paused, feeling exhausted, and leaned on the fence – there were 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 place he had these lines dictated was a suburb north of Oslo, the city’s slaughterhouse and the mental hospital where Munch’s sister was hospitalized; the shouts of the dead animals mingled with the cries of the mad.
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Munch drew a fetal (or mummy)-like figure with his mouth open, hands pressed to his head. Two unrelated figures are on a road to the left and the ocean is on the right. The sky is blood red. The Scream is a terrifying expression of existential fear.
The Scream painting became part of the series known as “The Frieze of Life”. Although it was created to describe a universal “life of the soul”, it can actually be seen as an autobiographical series, as it reflects the deaths of Munch’s mother and sisters and the mood of suicide he was involved in.
Of course, Munch could not even guess that this crisis series will be used in wallets, coffee mugs, and even cartoons today.
Munch was always found attractive by women. Among his friends, his nickname was Norway’s most handsome man. This situation, of course, was reflected in Munch’s love life. This love life is also in his paintings. Munch sometimes portrayed women in his paintings as delicate, fragile, and sometimes as blood-sucking vampires.
Vampire Love in Edvard Munch’s Paintings
Undoubtedly, the most similar to the vampire of Munch’s lovers was Tulla Larsen, the twenty-nine-year-old heiress who encountered Munch in 1898. Munch and Tulla fell in love with each other “hurriedly”. But when Munch was tired of this love, he wanted to leave Tulla. But Tulla followed Munch step by step all over Europe like a hysterical lover.
This love caused Tulla’s gun to explode while arguing with Munch one night. This lead cost Munch’s middle finger of his left hand. Munch recovered, but his left middle finger was no longer in place.
Not everything was going bad for Munch. Nobody was laughing at his pictures anymore. His art was accepted and he started to receive orders. Despite this, Munch felt he was beginning to lose his sanity.
He was caught up in an evasion as the secret police followed him. He was having seizures of paralysis. Sometimes he could not feel his leg and sometimes his arm. Eventually, his friends took him to a hospital near Copenhagen. Doctors diagnosed with alcoholic paralysis. Partial paralysis caused by the damage caused by excess alcohol in the nervous system. The treatment worked, and almost 25 years later, Munch was sober for the first time.
The crisis of the first world war forced Munch to buy land outside Oslo and grow agriculture and chickens there. Munch was now a popular painter in his country. There was no financial shortage. It was also respected by the state. But he still showed signs of depression, and despite all his fame he continued to behave like a grumpy old man.
Munch died on January 23, 1944, a month past the age of 80.
Edvard Munch Artworks
But Edvard Munch’s surprises to the world were not over. A big surprise awaited them in his house, where his friends could only enter after Munch’s death. His friends, who saw the upper floor of his house, were quite surprised.
- 1008 paintings,
- 4443 drawings,
- 15391 prints,
- 378 lithographs,
- 188 engraving prints,
- 148 woodcut,
- 143 lithographic stones,
- 155 copper plates and all his diaries were found.
He left the works unconditionally to Oslo City.
Blood Red Sky
The Scream’s ominous portrayal of the red sky is often referred to as an artistic act, but the reality is likely to be different.
In August 1883, due to the eruption of the Krakatoa volcano in Indonesia, which threw tons of rock and ash into the sky, dust in the atmosphere circled the globe, and in November, crimson twilight began to be observed all over Europe.
Munch made the work in 1893, but we clearly know that he made this work using notes he had kept in the past.
Edvard Munch Famous Paintings & Artworks
Death in the Sickroom
The Living-Room of the Misses Munch in Pilestredet
The Ladies On The Bridge
Self-Portrait with Cigarette