Norwegian artist Edvard Munch is famous for his masterpiece, The Scream. Let’s take a look at the man and what drove him to create such a haunting image, which is universally appreciated and an icon of Norway:
Munch was born on Decmber 12, 1863 in Löten, Norway, the second of five children. Tragedy seemed to follow the Munch family. When Edvard was very young, his mother died from tuberculosis, followed by one of his sisters. Another sister was troubled with mental illness issues and committed to an asylum in her teens and a brother died young after a bout of pneumonia. Munch, himself, suffered from mental health issues, which were exacerbated by alcoholism. The artist spent periods of time in a private sanitarium.
After originally studying to be an engineer, Munch left school to pursue art, which he did at the Royal School of Art and Design, starting in 1881. From there, he rented a studio with six other artists, with the intention of creating an exhibition. Munch specialized in Expressionism and some historians believe he was the father of the movement, before it took off in the early 1900’s.
Munch’s first major work was called The Sick Child and illustrated the death of his sister. It was also based on times he visited ill patients with his father, who was a doctor. When it was first unveiled, the painting drew harsh criticism, with many detractors claiming the piece was unfinished. Munch made six copies of the painting, which reside in galleries around the world.
After moving to France in 1889, Munch got down to business, creating a number of pieces based on feelings for the 1902 Berlin Exhibition. These works included Despair, Melancholy, Anxiety, and Jealousy. Munch’s claim to fame, The Scream, was also created during this period. It is actually based on a real location in Ekeberg, Norway. With Oslo pictured faintly in the background, past the safety railing and down the hill was the sanitarium which housed Munch’s sister. There was also a slaughterhouse nearby and it’s claimed that screams could be heard emanating from both buildings.
There are four versions of the famous image. One hangs in the Norwegian National Gallery, one in the Munch Museum, and pastel and lithograph varieties also exist. The National Gallery’s version of The Scream was stolen in 1994 on the opening day of the Lillehammer Winter Olympics, with the two male burglars leaving behind a note that read: “Thanks for the poor security.” The National Gallery refused to pay a $1 million ransom for the piece and a police sting operation recovered the painting a few months later, as well as procuring convictions against four men that were later overturned.
The Scream was also one of two pieces stolen from the Munch Museum in Oslo, Norway in 2004. Masked gunmen nabbed The Scream, as well as Munch’s ‘Madonna’. The work suffered some damage before it was recovered in 2006. The piece was put on display for a short time, with damage and all, before disappearing for restoration work. It finally returned to being on display again in 2008. In all, six men were arrested in connection with the theft.
In 2012, The Scream sold for $120 million U.S., breaking the record previously set by Pablo Picasso’s “Nude, Green Leaves and Bust,” which went for $106.5 million U.S. in 2010. The piece went up in value because the frame is also painted by Munch and includes a poem describing his motivation for creating it. Bidding began at a mere $40 million, with the auction lasting more than 12 minutes.
The Scream has found its way into numerous avenues of popular culture. It was the inspiration for Ghostface’s mask for the Scream movie franchise, which is known the world over. Pop artist Andy Warhol recreated the piece as a silk print, which became quite famous. It was also chosen by the Norwegian Postal Service as one of four Munch works to be turned into stamps. Imaging getting a letter with that haunting face staring back at you. No wonder so many Scandinavians go crazy!
In 1938, The Nazi’s declared Munch’s catalogue of work “degenerate art” and removed his collections from German galleries, putting them up for auction. Norwegian art dealer Harald Holst Halvorsen (the original Triple H) nabbed as many of the pieces as he could to return them to their homeland. Halvorsen then distributed some of the pieces to other parts of the continent, based on discussions he had with Munch and Munch’s desire for recognition in other parts of Europe.
Munch moved to Ekely, Norway and chose to live mostly in isolation, where he died on January 23, 1944, aged 81. He enjoyed painting the landscape and farm life in his twilight years, but perhaps more importantly, he did a fair bit of work on nude paintings with a slew of female models, some of which he likely had relationships with. Now, that is the mark of a true master!
Norway: Cloud Walker
- 1 oz Cloudberry Liqueur
- 0.75 oz Whiskey or Bourbon
- Top with Lemonade
- Splash of Lime Juice
- Garnish with a Lime Wedge
I must admit, that as I did research for this article, I was able to appreciate The Scream and other works by Munch more. Sadly, when the Sip Syndicate visited Oslo and tried to visit the Munch Museum, the place was closed. We all screamed in agony and then went to drown our sorrows at a nearby bar!
Sip Advisor Bar Notes (4.5 Sips out of 5):
Lemonade goes so well with Whiskeys and Bourbons. Luckily I’ve been around recently when a couple friends have had doubts to that. The Cloudberry Liqueur is the icing on this classic southern recipe cake and this was a wonderful cocktail which I will serve again in the future!