"The Scream": Analysis of Edvard Munch’s Most Popular Work

Artists are often influenced by events that occurred in their life be it traumatic or inspiring. One particular artist that is recognized as being one of the greats of modern time is Edvard Munch. In addition to this he is also seen as the father of expressionism. Edvard Munch’s most noted work of art that he produced and a personal favorite to many people today is the piece known as The Scream this was completed in 1893. Through my research in "Edvard Munch’s Most Popular Work "The Scream" Analysis Essay" paper, I have found that his early life had a very strong influence on how and why he painted the way he did, and how and why he lived the strange lonely life that he ended up living.

Edvard Munch was born in 1863 in Norway to a very poor family. His mother died premature to tuberculosis when Edvard was just a young age affecting him greatly. In addition to this his sister died when he was only thirteen of the same disease that took his mother. His father was not much of a shoulder to lean on as he also suffered with severe depression and became emotionally unavailable for young Edvard Munch. I believe this led to strong feelings of depression within himself and feelings he would later use in his life to propel his artwork to new levels that would connect with the everyday person and not just select individuals.

Edvard Munch became very interested in illustrating artwork that expressed strong emotional sensations. On top of this many research claim that his works are self-portraits of him in different scenarios. He experienced an extremely emotional and pretty sad life and lived very isolated from the rest of society. He chose to surround himself with his work rather than with people. The few people that did try to get involved in his life such as a woman named Larsen that longed to marry him he chose to push away instead. He struggled greatly with heavy drinking and fighting which led to him to become more and more isolated.

The Scream is a painting that immediately is almost shocking to look at. “His painting of a sexless, twisted, fetal-faced creature, with mouth and eyes open wide in a shriek of horror, re-created a vision that had seized him as he walked one evening in his youth with two friends at sunset. As he later described it, the “air turned to blood” and the “faces of my comrades became a garish yellow white.” Vibrating in his ears he heard “a huge endless scream course through nature.”. This quote describes perfectly what a strange shocking painting this actually is its very original and very few things are like it.

The scream is thought to be based on a real event that Munch experienced. He is illustrating a moment in his mind while he was on a walk with two of his friends. All of a sudden he stopped in the middle of the walk and was observing the sun setting and felt extremely anxious. He then felt like nature was letting out an endless scream at that moment in time and he was caught in the middle of it. Obviously it can be noted that his mental state must not have been perfect at that time when he was experiencing this or maybe it never was in a state that the average person is in due to the past traumas he had experienced. The centerpiece of the drawing is a strange figure that does not seem to even be human but does bare some resemblance. He holds the sides of his head with eyes wide open and a mouth that looks as if he’s letting out a loud scream hence the name. In the painting the strange human like creature is not the only living thing that can be seen. You can also make out two men walking in the background, and the only other object you can really make out is a boat other than that nothing can really be made out. This painting gives off a strong feeling of fear, and horror and is very uneasy to look at.

I believe this painting is so famous because people are able to connect it with modern times. You can really feel with this artist and how he has experienced so much pain and suffering and on top of that some people have said that their might be a hidden message behind everything. The hidden message could be that Munch is upset with how humanity alienates certain people and doesn’t seem to help them. That is how I see the drawing as if it could be someone who is suffering from depression or something else and no one around him is really noticing so he is literally screaming out for help.

The colors are dark and dramatic with a brightly lit orange sky. Although a majority of the painting is in dark colors he does use a good amount of orange to bring out certain things and really show the sky and how the sun is setting. Nature and human interaction with nature is a strong them in this painting. It appears as though the men and strange human like creature are standing on a wooden bridge over a river. Some people seem to think that the screaming creature is actually a mummy but this is not yet a proven observation.

The way he uses his brush you can almost make out the individual strokes that he uses. I believe the major symbolism of the person screaming is to show a strong emotion between humans and nature such as when the sun was so powerful when it was setting that it just stopped him in his tracks. His artwork was like nothing that was being done at the time it was very original and different. He is also known as one of the fathers of expressionism because more and more artists followed in his footsteps and wanted to create artwork that showed the relationships of humanity and the world. I find one of the most interesting and crazy parts of the painting was that it was painted with tempera on cardboard in on version, and done with crayon on cardboard in another version. The scale of the painting is only thirty six by twenty eight inches so it’s relatively small. I don’t think anyone would have guessed of an extremely famous painting to be done on cardboard and that one version of it was even done with a crayon is completely shocking and amazing.

In addition I find it very interesting that one of the people he took for inspiration was Vincent Van Gogh. It’s so interesting because the moment I looked at the painting I thought of similarities and how they do look alike. Looking at how both artists used the individual brush strokes and let you see it is one of the big similarities you can first notice. On top of this it’s really ironic that both artists suffered from mental health issues they just dealt with it in far different ways. Van Gogh obviously dealt much more serious mental issues that required him to be placed in medical care but you could argued that Edvard Munch really could have used very similar care. In addition to this both artists were also inspired by things that really happened to them. Lastly both artists have a similar theme of showing the night sky and nature along with how humans interact with nature.

Overall I found that the painting The Scream was one of the more emotional and shocking paintings to look at. Although I had previously seen pictures of the painting I could never put together exactly what was occurring in the painting nor did I really understand or appreciate the style and what the artist was trying to show. After learning more about the background of the artist I can appreciate more exactly what he was trying to show in his works. He poured an immense amount of emotion in his artwork because he was trying to make connections with people and express the way he truly was feeling deep inside. He also had many inspirations to paint the way he did such as Vincent Van Gogh’s Stary Night. I think it is clearly seen that the early traumas he experiences affected his mental health and painting style greatly. Even though all of this is true no one can take away from the amazing artwork that he produced in his life.


03 December 2019
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