Look at Edvard Munch’s Scream and what do you see? According to the British Museum, you may have it all wrong.
Many people believe it shows a man screaming. Not so, says the museum, which is about to display a black and white print of the image.
“This rare version of the Scream that we’re display at the British Museum makes clear that Munch’s most famous artwork depicts a person hearing a ‘scream’ and not, as many people continue to assume and debate, a person screaming,” said Giulia Bartrum, curator of a forthcoming exhibition devoted to the Norwegian artist.
The lithograph, unlike the coloured works, features an inscription by Munch that reads: “I felt the great scream throughout nature.”
It is a reference to his inspiration for the painting. Munch was walking by a fjord overlooking Oslo in 1892 when the sky turned blood red, a sight that had a profound effect upon him.
“Munch very deliberately included the caption on this version to describe how his inspiration came from the anxiety he suddenly felt.
“He was trying to capture an emotion or moment in time. Through the inscription we know how he felt. People think this is a screaming person but that’s not what is going on.
“It is a man hearing, whether in his head or not. He feels the sensation of nature screaming all around him.
“I have no doubt that this iconic figure is reacting to nature’s external forces on that hillside. What can still be debated is whether, for Munch, those forces were real or psychological.”