The Scream by Edvard Munch: A Masterpiece of Proto-Expressionism Art

The Scream by Edvard Munch is a painting that has become an iconic symbol of human anxiety and existential despair. This masterpiece of proto-expressionism art was created by the Norwegian painter, Edvard Munch, in 1893. Since then, it has captivated and haunted millions of people all over the world. In this blog post, we will explore the meaning and description of The Scream, the story behind the painting, its analysis and interpretation, painting facts, as well as the controversy surrounding it.

What is the meaning of The Scream by Edvard Munch?

The Scream depicts a lone individual standing on a bridge, his hands on his face, screaming loudly. The figure appears to be anguished, as if he is experiencing some kind of intense emotional pain or terror. He is surrounded by a colorful and swirling landscape, which seems to be vibrating and pulsating with anxiety.

The painting is widely regarded as an expression of profound existential angst, as if Munch is trying to capture the very essence of human suffering. The figure in The Scream represents the human condition, desperately trying to communicate his innermost turmoil to the world, but to no avail. The painting is a depiction of the agony of modernity, the pain of living in a world that is constantly changing and evolving.

The Scream Description

The Scream is an oil-on-canvas painting that measures 91 cm × 73.5 cm (36 in × 28.9 in). It is one of four versions of the painting that Munch created between 1893 and 1910. The version in question is currently held at the National Gallery in Oslo, Norway.

The painting features a diagonal composition, with the figure occupying the left foreground, and the swirling landscape unfolding in the background. The colors used are primarily bold and vibrant, which underscores the intensity of the emotions that Munch is trying to convey.


The Scream is often considered a precursor to the Expressionist movement, which emerged in Germany in the early 20th century. However, Munch himself preferred to describe his work as “proto-expressionism”, as he believed that he was exploring new frontiers in the art of expression.

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Munch was deeply influenced by the philosophies of Friedrich Nietzsche, particularly his ideas about the “eternal recurrence” of life and the concept of the “will to power”. These concepts were fundamental to Munch’s artistic vision, and he sought to create works that were raw and honest, unencumbered by the conventions of conventional academic art.

The Scream Movie

The Scream has been a source of inspiration for many artists and filmmakers over the years. In 2001, a horror movie called “Scream” was released, which was loosely inspired by the painting. The movie featured a series of gruesome murders, as a group of teenagers were stalked by a masked killer.

While the painting itself is not explicitly violent or gory, it does capture a sense of existential dread and terror that is similar to the mood of the horror movie. Indeed, both the painting and the movie explore the darker aspects of human nature, and the ways in which we cope with fear and anxiety.

What is the story behind the painting The Scream?

The story behind The Scream is shrouded in mystery and speculation. According to some accounts, Munch was inspired to create the painting while taking a walk with friends in the hills overlooking Oslo. As he gazed out at the breathtaking landscape, he was suddenly overcome with a feeling of intense anxiety and panic. He later wrote in his diary:

“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.”

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Munch immediately set to work on creating a painting that would capture this emotional experience. Over the course of several months, he produced four versions of The Scream, each slightly different from the others.

The Scream Painting Facts

  • The Scream is one of the most valuable paintings in the world, with one version selling at auction for a record-breaking $119.9 million in 2012.

  • The painting has been the subject of numerous parodies and homages, including versions featuring characters from The Simpsons, Star Wars, and even the Muppets.

  • The painting is widely considered a masterpiece of proto-expressionism art, and has inspired countless artists and filmmakers over the years.

  • The Scream has been stolen twice from the National Gallery in Oslo, in 1994 and 2004.

The Scream Painting Analysis

The Scream has been the subject of intense analysis and interpretation over the years, as art critics and scholars have attempted to unlock the secrets of this enigmatic painting. Some have argued that the figure in the painting represents Munch himself, while others have suggested that it is a depiction of the human psyche, struggling to come to terms with the complexities of modernity.

Many have noted the similarities between The Scream and the work of other proto-expressionist artists, such as Vincent van Gogh and James Ensor. These artists were all exploring similar themes of psychological turmoil and existential dread, and were part of a larger cultural movement that sought to redefine art in the modern era.

Why Did Edvard Munch Paint The Scream?

The precise motivation behind Munch’s creation of The Scream is still a matter of debate. However, it is clear that the painting was meant to express his own innermost feelings of anxiety and despair. Munch was deeply affected by the death of his sister, who passed away in a mental institution, as well as the dissolution of several of his romantic relationships.

The Scream can be seen as Munch’s attempt to come to terms with these personal tragedies, and to find a way to express the pain and turmoil that he was experiencing. In this sense, the painting can be seen as a deeply personal work, one that reflects the complex emotions of its creator.

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How Old Was Edvard Munch When He Painted The Scream?

Edvard Munch was 30 years old when he painted the first version of The Scream, in 1893. He had already established himself as a prominent artist in Norway, but his reputation was still growing in the wider art world. The painting would go on to become his most famous work, and would cement his place in the annals of art history.

Why Was The Scream Controversial?

The Scream was controversial when it was first exhibited, mainly because of its raw and unsettling portrayal of human emotion. Many viewers were shocked by the intensity of the emotions on display, and some even accused Munch of being mentally ill himself.

Over time, however, The Scream has become a beloved and iconic piece of art, one that is celebrated for its unique vision and emotional intensity. Its enduring popularity testifies to the power of art to move and inspire us, even in our darkest moments.

Edvard Munch Pronunciation

Edvard Munch’s last name is pronounced “moonk” (with a long “u” sound). His first name is pronounced “Ehd-vard” (with the stress on the first syllable).

In conclusion, The Scream by Edvard Munch is a groundbreaking work of proto-expressionism art, one that continues to captivate and fascinate us to this day. Its intense emotional power, combined with its hauntingly beautiful composition, make it one of the most iconic paintings of the modern era. Whether we see ourselves in the figure on the bridge, or we simply marvel at its artistic brilliance, The Scream remains a testament to the enduring power of art to move and inspire us.