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What Was the Inspiration for the Painting “the Scream”?

After studying artist Edvard Munch's journals and perusing sky phenomena that might have created the "blood-red sky" in the iconic painting The Scream, researchers in 2004 concluded that the volcano Krakatoa had a profound effect on the artist and the 1893 painting. Krakatoa erupted in Indonesia in 1883, sending dust and gases high into the atmosphere, and producing a blood-red twilight glow. The red sky was reminiscent of a distant fire and was visible from places as far away as Norway for about three months. Newspaper reports from 1883 confirm the appearance of red skies in the Western Hemisphere.

In the article "When The Sky Ran Red: The Story Behind The Scream," in Sky & Telescope magazine, researchers wrote that they went to Oslo, Norway, to pinpoint the exact location where Munch was standing when he "felt a great, unending scream piercing through nature," as the artist later put it.

A Mona Lisa for our time:

  • The Scream is the title given to four versions of the composition (both paintings and pastels), created by the Expressionist artist between 1893 and 1910.

  • Munch called these works Der Schrei der Natur (The Scream of Nature). Noted art aficionado Arthur Lubow described The Scream as "an icon of modern art, a Mona Lisa for our time."

  • The works have been the target of several high-profile art thefts. In 1994 and 2004, versions of The Scream were pilfered from the National Gallery in Oslo and the Munch Museum. Both were later recovered.

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