The Scream

Edvard Munchís "The Scream" was painted in the end of the 19th century, and is
possibly the first Expressionist painting. The Scream was very different from the art of
the time, when many artists tried to depict objective reality.

Munch was a tortured soul, and it certainly showed in this painting. Most of his
family had died, and he was often plagued by sickness. The Scream was not a reflection
of what was going on at the time, but rather, Munchís own inner hell. It visualizes a
desperate aspect of fin-de-siŤcle: anxiety and apocalypse. The percussiveness of
the motif shows that it also speaks to our day and age ( Whaley 75 ).

When Edvard Much was asked what had inspired him to do this painting, he
replied, "One evening I was walking along a path, the city on one side of me and the
fjord below. I felt tired and ill. I stopped and looked out across the fjord. The sun was
setting, the clouds were turning blood red. I felt a scream passing through nature. It
seemed to me that I could hear the scream. I painted this picture; painted the clouds as
real blood. The colors screamed" (Preble 52).

Some people, when they look at this painting, only see a person screaming. They
see the pretty blend of colors, but donít actually realize what they are looking at. A lone
emaciated figure halts on a bridge clutching his ears, his eyes and mouth open wide in a
scream of anguish. Behind him a couple (his two friends) are walking together in the
opposite direction. Barely discernible in the swirling motion of a red-blood sunset and
deep blue-black fjord, are tiny boats at sea, and the suggestion of town buildings ( Preble


This painting was definately the first of its kind, the first Expressionist painting.

People say that a picture is worth a thousand words. If thatís the case, then "The Scream"
is worth a million. It has a message that no other painting of its time had. Edvard Munch
was pouring out his soul onto the canvas. What we see here, is a glimpse of what Munch
was really like inside. When we really look at the painting, we understand what the artist
was feeling at the time, because it captures nothing but human emotion. It creates a
similar mood in us for a brief moment.

The man screaming in the picture seems to feel like heís going insane, and that
the world is getting to be too much for him. The two people walking away from him
possibly mean that the man feels left out of everything, or that he doesnít fit in with the
rest of the world. Maybe he needs help, and his friends werenít there for him.

The piece of artwork speaks better than actual words to describe it, which makes
it something spectacular. Long after Munch died, the painting remains, and people are
still amazed with it. Why? Because art is all about expressing raw human emotion, and
this painting captures it perfectly. People are scared of things they donít understand or
cannot relate to. Everyone can relate to what this piece expresses, and that is why itís so


Birren, Faber. History of Color Painting: New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold Co., 1965.

Preble, Hans Peter. Expressionism. Trans. Mary Whittall. New York: Oxford University Press, 1972.

Whaley, Doug. Edvard Munch- Father of Expressionism: A Study In Existential Philosophy. New York:

Anchor Books, 1973.