Edvard Munch’s The Scream

1 03 2010

As I teenager, I bought a print of The Scream and put it on my wall.  At the time, the painting spoke to me by expressing an aspect of my personal emotional state.  I was going through some major tragedies and was generally pretty depressed. 

The scream is a hugely famous piece by Edvard Munch from the expressionist movement.  Everyone knows this painting. 

Expressionism originated in hippie-esque Weimar Germany.  Artists attempt “to present the world under an utterly subjective perspective, violently distorting it to obtain an emotional effect and vividly transmit personal moods and ideas”.  This esthetic philosophy resulted in a large amount of crap art both due to the lack of skill required in many instances and the emphasis on emotional angst. Emotion is emphasized at the expense of utilizing the conceptual reasoning faculties of the mind. 

However the Scream is still a highly effective piece of art in my opinion.  There’s no doubt as to the despair and anxiety it is expressing.  The solitude of the man, the distortion of his weak and pale looking body, and the deep violent colours of the apocalyptic background.  In the words of Munch:

“I was walking along a path with two friends — the sun was setting — suddenly the sky turned blood red — I paused, feeling exhausted, and leaned on the fence — there was blood and tongues of fire above the blue-black fjord and the city — my friends walked on, and I stood there trembling with anxiety — and I sensed an infinite scream passing through nature.”

But it’s so depressing and uninspiring!  Why choose to provide a concrete form to such emotions?  Why did the artist regard this despair important enough to make a painting about?  Did he believe despair was common to all people perhaps in a similar way to the existentialist philosophers such as Sartre?  Did he believe despair was a major recurring element of the human condition? 

I have this problem with much modern art.  Many skillful and genuinely creative artists often present a highly malevolent view of the world.  eg/ I often notice this when analysing the plots of so called “arty” or critically acclaimed movies. 

Today I discovered the Simpsons’ Scream paraody (H/T Andrew Bolt’s blog) and I wanted to post it here simply because I thought it was so hilarious.

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