Friday, July 5, 2013

Paintings of Modern Art - The Scream

If any single painting exemplified the concepts of modernism, and how the philosophy influenced art, it's "The Scream" by Norwegian artist Edvard Munch. The painting, which depicts an agonized figure against a blood red sky. There are those that say that the painting depicts the hopelessness inherent in modernism. Others call "The Scream" a symbol of modern man overtaken by an attack of existential angst, the moment in which the existential crisis occurs.

As a matter of fact, some people believe that the painting depicts some kind of mental illness, supported by the fact that Munch's own sister was hospitalized with what was probably manic depression at the time. Others insist that the painting depicts some kind of dissociative disorder, in which there's a feeling of distortion of the environment and one's self.

There have been all kinds of attempts to explain different aspects of the painting. The red sky, for example, could've been inspired by the weather conditions in Oslo during the time that Munch created it. There was a powerful volcanic eruption of Krakatoa in 1883, and the ash that was ejected from the volcano left the sky tinted red in much of the eastern United States and most of Europe and Asia from the end of November 1883 to February 1884. Some scholars dispute this theory, however, stating that Munch wasn't a descriptive painter and tended to not depict things literally.

Another theory that advances the depiction of mental illness in this painting is the setting of the painting itself. The landscape in the background of "The Scream" is Osloford, viewed from the hill of Ekeberg, near what's now Oslo, Norway. The bridge the subject is standing on happens to be nearby both a slaughterhouse and a mental institution. Munch very well could've gotten some existential vibes from both buildings.

At any rate, "The Scream" seems to be one of those modernist paintings that have captured the public, to the point that by the late twentieth century, it held almost iconic stature. In 1983 and 1984, pop artist Andy Warhol created a series of silk prints of Munch's works, including "The Scream," making it into a mass-reproducible object. It's now one of the most recognizable pieces of art, and has been used in cartoons, movies, and advertisement.

Munch created at least four versions of "The Scream," held by various individuals and museums all over the world. Two of them have been stolen. The first was in 1994, from the National Gallery in Oslo, the same day as the Opening Ceremonies of the Winter Olympics in Lillehammer. The four thieves left a note to replace the painting they stole: "Thanks for the poor security." It was recovered in 1994 in a sting operation. Another version, along with another of Munch's paintings ("Madonna"), was stolen in 2004, from the Munch Museum in Oslo. It was damaged, but was able to be restored after the police recovered it after a huge investigation.

"The Scream" by Edvard Munch, is an important piece of modern art. Many believe that it has garnered so much attention because it depicts not only the spirit of modernism, both as a philosophy and an art movement, but the angst and detachment of the modern world.

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