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10 Things You Don’t Know About The Scream

Nothing short of an icon, Edvard Munch’s The Scream is an expressionist depiction we’re much familiar with. Sharply distinct from the Renaissance’s ideals of beauty, serenity, and heroism, The Scream exhibits the horrors of everyday lives, ransacked with fear, anxiety, and uncertainty. It is considered the ‘Mona Lisa’ of its era and since its origin has made waves in the artistic world, so what are some of the unknown facts about “The Scream”

Edvard Munch was a Norwegian artist born in 1863. He lived to reach 80 years and painted several pieces of art drawing on despairing themes of death, love, sadness, and fear. Munch faced many tragic deaths of his family members growing up and was constantly afflicted with depression. Perhaps, that’s why his dejected state was easily reflected in all of his works. 

1.What’s in a name? 

The initial title of the painting was not actually termed “The Scream”. Its original German name was called “Der Schrei der Natur” which translates to “The Scream of Nature”. Munch disclosed the rationale of the name in a poem behind the pastel frame.

In his prose, he spoke about a melancholic evening with friends and an onset of anxiety under the setting sun. In truth, the figure was covering his or her ears from the shrieking surroundings. 

2.Fourth Time’s a Charm

Munch painted four different versions of The Scream. The first painted version was showcased in Oslo in the year 1893. Later the same year, he painted a pastel version. In 1895, he worked on another detailed pastel version and finally, the last painted piece that dates back to 1910.

He created a lithographic print which enabled him to mass-produce and sell many monochromatic versions. In 1984, Andy Warhol was commissioned to create an ignited pop art version of The Scream which sustained its popularity even in the 20th century.

3.Robberies and recoveries

The Scream has been stolen twice over the years. February 1994 was quite an eventful month for Norway. Preps were underway for the opening of the Winter Olympics in Lillehammer. It was also the same day Oslo’s National Gallery was broken into. Thieves absconded with the painting and left a note that read “Thanks for the poor security”.

The investigation continued for 3 months before the painting was discovered and 4 men were convicted of robbery. In 2004, armed robbers escaped with the 1910 version of The Scream from the Munch Museum in Oslo in broad daylight.

Two years later, the painting was recovered and 6 men went on trial for the theft but while only 3 of them were sentenced by the court. 

4.Mars to the rescue!

Mars, Inc. stepped forward to play a part in the recovery efforts during 2006. Picking up on the timing, they exercised a marketing ploy to promote M&Ms the new dark chocolate flavor. The TV commercial showed the red M&M playing hopscotch with the painting. Furthermore, a reward of 2 million M&Ms was offered for the retrieval of the picture.

Funnily enough, the temptation seemed to have overridden one of the perpetrators’ desire to keep the painting. He disclosed the whereabouts of the artwork in exchange for conjugal visits and 2.2 tonnes of M&Ms. Mars thought it best to grant the prize to the Norwegian authorities who requested that the cash amount be donated to Munch Museum.

5.The Scream in pop culture

The painting has made its way into 21st-century pop culture, particularly in films and television. The writers of the British sci-fi legacy show “Doctor Who” were greatly influenced by the protagonist of The Scream, as confirmed by Executive producer Steven MoffatThey invented eerie creatures called The Silence with very similar physical characteristics that first made an appearance in the 11th Doctor’s era in 2011. Wes Craven, the director of hit slasher movie “Scream”, confirms the famous killer mask to be a byproduct of his love for Munch’s artwork. That mask has now become a top-of-the-mind symbol for just about all living individuals.

6.Hinting Suicide?

According to Sue Prideaux, author of Edvard Munch: Behind the Scream, Munch painted The Scream during a very distressing time in his life. It was believed that he was destitute, fresh out of a futile relationship, and worried about harboring a mental illness that was prevalent in his family.

It may also not come as a surprise that the bridge depicted behind the screamer was an actual spot for jumpers. Coincidentally, it was a stone’s throw from a slaughterhouse and an asylum for the insane where his schizophrenic sister was admitted. 

7.The screamer a Peruvian mummy?

Right about the time The Scream was created, a mysterious mummified figure was discovered near the Utcubamba River in Peru’s Amazonas region.

The mummy was identified as one of the Chachapoya warriors, also known as “warriors of the clouds”, that lived in the 16th century and belonged to the region of modern-day Peru. The mummy’s hands were also found on either side of a shrieking mouth, freakishly like the screamer’s depiction. 

8.Record high sale at auction

At an auction held at Sotheby, London in 2012, the pastel version of The Scream was sold for a whopping $120 million, making it the most costly piece of artwork ever to be sold at an auction at that time.

The gentleman who bought the artwork was an American investor and art collector by the name Leon David Black.

9.An emotional connection

Harvard neurobiology professor Margaret Livingstone, through her studies performed on macaque monkeys, states a finding that the brain is more likely to respond to exaggerated faces like the screamer’s tortured look of shock.

She provides a rationale for why we connect to emotional expressions highlighting “it’s what our nerve cells are attuned to”.

10.The Scream lies in the public domain

All of Munch’s works, including The Scream, are in the public domains of nations that observe the ‘life plus 70 years’ copyright term. Munch was deceased in 1944 so 2015 marks the year his works were released into the public domain of Brazil, Israel, Nigeria, Russia, Turkey, and those within the European Union. It was already considered public domain in the US.


Well, these are some of the unknown facts about The Scream. So many truths and possibilities behind a single expression! The Scream holds an intriguing mystery that draws viewers is based on a seemingly strange but relatable association. The picture is an unfiltered display of our very own state of mind.

The shaded curves in various directions resemble a vortex-like appearance that pulls in the observer in Munch’s personal reality.    

The Scream will always remain a classic masterpiece and an apt representation of the symbolist and expressionist movements of the 19th and early 20th centuries. Also, check out Der Schrei der Natur (The Scream of Nature) 

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