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Forever Shifting

Munch’s masterpiece is different from reproductions – the brushstrokes are more dynamic, the colours of its tempera and pastel are more luminous than on the umbrellas and tote bags in the gift shop. The figure’s expression seems to be in shock, not anxious; its eyes are blank crosses that lock into my gaze.

Something unseen appears to be clutching its shoulder; the perspective is dizzying. I notice gouges on the surface. It is as if The Scream is forever shifting, familiar yet unknowable. I must be peering too closely because a guard rushes over to ask me to stand back.


46 reads


Norway’s Most Revered Painter

Edvard Munch’s timeless representation of human terror, created at the birth of modernism in Europe, makes its long-awaited return tomorrow at the opening of Norway’s new £500 million National Museum, after more than three years in storage.

This is the oldest of several Screams, painted in...


81 reads

The Scream

As the most celebrated version of the masterpiece goes on display, we examine its many meanings.

We all know The Scream – or we think we do. Boiling sea beneath blood-red sky. A figure – genderless, featureless, alone on a precipice – confronts us with an anguished face as it covers its ear...


107 reads

The Sream Is Not Screaming

Hansen points out that The Scream is not screaming; that was not Munch’s intention. He left several poems, notes and diary entries in which he described the circumstances behind the image, including this diary entry written in 1892:

“I was walking along the road with two friends – then...


35 reads

A Northern Melancholy

In 1889, he escaped to Paris, where he encountered the post-impressionists: Van Gogh’s expressive and emotional brushwork; Gaugin’s heavy, simplified outlines and contours.

He took them, and injected his own sense of northern European melancholy, developing a new style of painting that ref...


27 reads

A Tortured Figure

It is the one on which Munch dripped candle wax, possibly left out in the garden and on which he scribbled: “Could only have been painted by a madman.” It was stolen then returned in a gallery raid in 1994, and is reproduced on endless Munch merchandise, from women’s dresses to babies’ b...


60 reads


We use it ironically, as visual shorthand for exasperation, perhaps anxiety. Why does it resonate so deeply? Thierry Ford, a conservator at the National Museum, says we project whatever we want on to Munch’s figure. “There is no right or wrong way to interpret it – it’s so versatile.”


50 reads

Munch's Masterpiece Resonates

They include a piece of beach detritus – a wooden disc with three holes, some kind of winding mechanism.

Moore cast it in bronze in the mid-20th century. It looks like The Scream. He must have known.

And I see it in the mask worn by the villain in Scream, Wes Craven’s 1990s classic sh...


24 reads

A Social Glue

“People still respect and know its culture, they know the work,” she says. But now, like other emojis, it has a new role helping humans to communicate. “The Scream has become social glue,” she says.

In any case, we are using it less. According to Unicode, the official body...


23 reads

The Scream Is Special

The circumstances in which Munch worked on it give more clues to its resonance. He was nearly 30, and he knew The Scream was special. His life before had been ravaged by madness, sickness and death.

His mother and sister died of tuberculosis; his father was dogged by depression. Another si...


44 reads

An Outside Force

My friends went on and I stood there trembling with anxiety – and felt that a great, infinite scream went through nature.”

The scream is emitted by an outside force; the figure covers his ears because he cannot bear the intensity. Hansen suggests a second interpretation:


36 reads

Some Kind of Sperm-Like

Across Oslo harbour, Munch superfan Tracey Emin is in town to unveil her bronze sculpture, The Mother, outside the Munch Museum. Later, she talks about her fascination wi...


29 reads

The Scream Everywhere

Nevertheless, Emin fears The Scream has lost some of its power. “I went to the museum shop and there were nail files with The Scream, so when you file your nails it goes, ‘Wheeee!’ I thought, ‘That’s so bad. What would Munch have said?’”

I think about Emin’s encounter with a Scream...


20 reads

From Foetuses to Emojis

From foetuses to emojis. The “Face Screaming in Fear” was added to platforms in 2010 – inspired by both Munch’s image and characters in Japanese anime – and has been used in millions of digital messages ever since, whether to add feeling to a photograph of a positive lateral flow test, o...


21 reads

A Non-Selfie Experience

Unlike Mona Lisa, which last month in Paris had cake thrown at its protective glass in a bizarre climate protest, the returning Screa...


41 reads


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