Painting Analysis – “The Scream” Edvard Munch

Title: The original German title of this piece is Der Schrei der Natur, “The Scream of Nature.”   In Norwegian, the language of artist Edvard Munch, it is called Skrik. The Norwegian title is cognate with the English word “shriek” so one might call
the painting, “The Shriek,” instead of its more common name, “The Scream.”

Inspiration: It is rare that an artist remembers precisely what inspired him or her to create a famous piece of art, but this is exactly what we have in “The Scream.” Munch recalls 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 color shrieked. This became The Scream.[7]

Themes: Viewers may feel compelled to characterize Munch as deeply disturbed or grieving. Recent research on the artist reveals, however, that Munch was a talented marketer and a street-smart entrepreneur. He had a strong sense of how to play the art market and how to sculpt public opinion. While some argue that he drew heavily from French and German art, it seems more likely that he drew on influences from his native Norway. Though it is difficult to imagine from merely looking at The Scream, much of Munch’s work explores love and sexuality including “Kiss by the Window” and “The Hands.”

Finally, there is this comment from The Art Story, an American non-profit dedicated to art education.

“Munch intended for his intense colors, semi-abstraction and mysterious, often open-ended themes to function as symbols of universal significance. Thus his drawings, paintings, and prints take on the quality of psychological talismans: having originated in Munch’s personal experiences, they nonetheless bear the power to express, and perhaps alleviate, any viewer’s own emotional or psychological condition.”



Wikipedia, “The Scream,” Retrieved on Feb. 28, 2013 from

 The Art Institute of Chicago. ^ Retrieved Feb 28., 2013: “Quick Facts”Becoming Edvard Munch.

Retrived Feb. 28, 2013:,



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