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Why Did He Scream So?   Jun24 2005

Filed under De Arts |

Painters, such a sad old bunch
None it seems more so than Munch
Upon that bridge with skies afire
A meme took flight to never tire

   ~ Ewen

On August 26-27, 1883, the island Krakatoa tore itself apart, literally vaporizing to journey around Earth as airborne ash for several decades. As spectacular moody sunsets both fazed and fascinated people around the globe, the paranoid fared worst.

This acutely intrepid reporter, after viewing a documentary on Krakatoa referring to William Ashcroft’s meticulous paintings of orange ruby skies, and shortly afterwards while polishing up some SheepOverboard trivia (you might have been so unfortunate to have read) suddenly – without prior cues – wondered if Munch’s inspiration for The Scream originated in the Krakatoa sunsets that would have persisted for maybe a decade or more after the years commonly ascribed.

That thought, damn it, is not only well taken care of by all and sundry in the art business but probably was obvious to Munch’s contemporaries and everyone since. Not to be so easily thrown to the mat of unoriginal thoughts, I have a new theory, having read his bio, that the sky’s redness was due to bloodshot eyes of our guzzler-artiste.

Before sending you to some resources on this fascinating Munch meme, and dabbling in the sandbox of mirth spawned lovingly from simulacra daubings, one ponders historical accuracy of accounts attributed to Munch, explaining his thoughts leading to painting The Scream. What did he really say?

Firstly, replicating on the Internet, are these apparent quotes:

I was going down the street behind two friends” wrote Munch in 1892. “The sun went down behind a hill overlooking the city and the fjord. I felt a trace of sadness and the sky suddenly turned blood red. I stopped walking, leaned against the railing, dead tired. My two friends looked at me and kept on walking. I watched the flaming clouds over the fjord and the city and my friends kept on. I stood there shaking with fear and I felt a great unending scream penetrate unending nature.”

Another passage:

I felt a loud scream and I really heard a loud scream…. The vibrations in the air did not only affect my eye, but my ear as well because I really heard a scream. Then I painted The Scream”   ~ wrote Munch in 1892. Edvard Munch, from unpublished notes, kept in the Munch Museum, Oslo.

Second, this 2004 archived page from The Munch Museum. The article on this page at the Internet Archive has almost completely disappeared, save for fragments, like this quotation. It is worth a visit to the Wayback Machine to read in entirety. The author is Arne Eggum:

I was out walking with two friends – the sun began to set – 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 endless scream passing through nature.

Or Norwegian source:

Jeg gik bortover veien med to venner – så gik solen ned – himmelen ble pludselig blodrød – jeg stanset, lænet mig til gjærdet træt til døden – over den blåsvarte fjord og by lå blod og ildtunger – mine vænner gik videre og jeg stod igjen skjælvende av angst – og jeg følte at det gik et stort uendelig skrig gjennem naturen

Edvard Munch biography at the new Munch Museum website

Now to the real purpose of this page.

Searching for Scream images on the web showed dozens of variations of his original, most of them cheeky, and might we say, “fair use”?

We all love The Scream, we worship it – craven with graven images, mimicry, caricature! So I collaged them into a giant image, and at the same time created a new verb from the noun ‘collage.’ There are hundreds more to add but, well, life is short.

Click here to view the montage below shown in full size. Warning, it takes a while to download and display. Quite large. Remember to scroll down after it appears.