“Scream”

Edvard Munch, “Scream,” 1893, oil tempera and pastel on cardboard.

This is the most expensive piece of cardboard in existence. One of the four versions of Munch’s “Scream” sold for auction last spring for almost $120 million (the highest price to date!) So what makes it such an icon of modern art? I tell my students that one characteristic that makes artists unique is their ability to process the world externally – while most of us do so internally. This is a perfect example as we are taking the privileged perspective of the mind of a (literally) mad genius. This specific work was composed not long after Munch’s mother father an sister passed – it is inner anguish and frustration, silent and out of control; a caricature more than a portrait. But I can’t say it as well as the artist himself: “I was walking along the road with two of my friends. The sun set — the sky became a bloody red. And I felt a touch of melancholy — I stood still, dead tired — over the blue-black fjord and city hung blood and tongues of fire. My friends walked on — I stayed behind — trembling with fright — I felt the great scream in nature.” (thanks@thescotta for the suggestion!) (Original post to Instagram November 4, 2012.)

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