Tomorrow, one of four versions of Edvard Munch’s iconic The Scream will be for sale at the Impressionist and Modern Art auction at Sotheby’s in New York. If you’re interested, it will run you about $80 million.
No image of The Scream that is on sale tomorrow is available for reuse, but it is very similar to the one in the Nasjonalgalleriet in Oslo (above). The one that is for sale was in a private collection in Norway since it was painted in 1895. It is exceptional because it is in its original frame that the artist painted and inscribed with a poem that speaks of his anxiety.
The Scream captures viewers’ imaginations because it communicates the intense psychological distress of the figure in the painting who represents the artist himself. It depicts Munch’s fear of death (note the skull-shaped head) and his agoraphobia, or fear of open spaces, from which he suffered. The image recalls a specific event when Munch was walking across a bridge and, he said, “I felt a tinge on melancholy. Suddenly the sky became a bloody red.” He said that he heard a scream and then realized that he was screaming.
This psychological self-portrait shows the waves of anxiety Munch experienced that day with the undulating parallel lines that suggest sound waves and the loudness of the scream. These waves move through the landscape distorting the figure and everything around him as he gets pulled into his environment, which is a particular fear of those who suffer from agoraphobia. The colors are not natural, but rather purely expressive with their intensity and boldness. There are only a few works of art in the history of western art that have the same power and expressive force.