Review of Edvard Munch's The Scream
By: David K. Montoya

Welcome to this month's art review, first thank you to everyone who dropped me a line telling me that they enjoyed last month's tirade on van Gogh's Starry Night. This month is in the same vein as the previous issue. This time around we are going to look at an artist by the name of Edvard Munch, and while he lived a much longer life than van Gogh (who was only ten years older), does not mean that he lived a better existence. Before I jump into this article, I would like to point out that as you read and see similarities between the two artists, they actually knew and worked with each other in Paris.

Edvard Munch painted many things over his long life, Anxiety, Puberty, Jealousy (starting to see a theme?), my personal favorite Vampire, but his most well known creation is what people in the art-world considered as the Mona Lisa in the modern era of fine art titled, The Scream. Again, many believe that Da Vinci created the idea of the calm and serene age of enlightenment called, Renaissance—Munch defined his era now a world wrecked with anxiety, jealousy and chaos.

Much like authors turn the pen toward themselves, The Scream was Edvard Munch's autobiographical account of his actual experience while on a walk with his two friends (which are depicted in the painting the two behind the screamer) a scream exploded from nature.

Much like van Gogh, Munch suffered from mental illness, and is believed to have had experienced an episode of such disorder when he heard the scream. But, Edvard had the ability to capture the extremes of suffering schizophrenia.

The disorder screamed in so many of his paintings, but in The Scream the flowing curves which is thought to be a manic fusion between the pandemonium of modern life and the peace of nature, which must ultimately bend to the power of chaos. That the pain and suffering of humans is so omnipotent that it can bend the unbendable, and with a suggestion of feminine overtones in the piece tells me that it is woman-like and believed he was referring to Mother Nature herself.

But, Munch was not a crazed man that would explore his inner demons through art, as a painter he was very aware of artistic expression and style. Case in point, Edvard begin to employ elements of art nouveau (Art Nouveau is an international style of art, architecture and applied art, especially the decorative arts. It was most popular between 1890 and 1910. A reaction to the academic art of the 19th century, it was inspired by natural forms and structures, particularly the curved lines of plants and flowers) into his works, though only in small amounts or hidden in his own way.

But, with The Scream, the pain, the anxiety and the overwhelming existence with schizophrenia cause him to let go. This allowed for the foreground characters to be consumed with the illness and became distorted by the disrupted flow of Mother Nature. This art can be interpreted in many ways—one of my personal favorite views was that schizophrenia is punishment for humans, as they experience the direct wrath of Mother Nature for the centuries of mistreatment she took from mortals.

Another big debate about the painting, was over the fact that Edvard Munch was the one to personally experience the depiction in artwork, the character however does no resemblance Munch in any way. The Creature as it is called had no personalized feature or sexual characteristics—is it man or woman? My personal theory is that the scream is the mental illness inside Munch, and for that single moment in time, while the artist attempted to have a pleasant walk with his two friends and ignore the pain and chaos that schizophrenia brings, caused unexpected amounts of anxiety which eventually caused the illness to over take the person as from withing screamed out in agony.

I say this because Munch displayed multiple factors that he was well aware of (and just how dangerous) of his illness. It was captured into his paintings, and while it allowed him to free his soul of the pain, it was a risky move in the art world. At some point, whether it was through therapy (medication for schizophrenia would not come out to the public until eight years after his passing), because he did live well into the 1940s—but shortly after he rendered The Scream, the artist abandoned that art style and very rarely (if ever actually) created a character in the foreground in such manner like he did with The Scream.

I will conclude this review with a bit of art trivia for all of you, did you know that there was a previous version of the same exact painting? But Munch defaced it with the words, "Could only have been painted by a madman."