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14 Things You Didn't Know About The Scream

You’ve seen it on everything from socks to The Simpsons to cocktail napkins, but how much do you really know about Edvard Munch's The Scream?

1. The Scream isn't one piece, but four.

Munch created a quartet of executions of the familiar scene. In 1893, the Norwegian artist made a painted version as well as a crayon piece. Two years later, he created another pastel version. Then in 1910, he used tempera paints on board for his final Scream.

2. Munch also mass-produced the image.

Once his Scream caught on in the European art scene, Munch made a lithograph of the concept so that he could sell black-and-white prints at will. These prints got a second life of sorts in 1984, courtesy of Andy Warhol. In the wake of its Munch exhibition, the New York–based Galleri Bellman commissioned the pop art pioneer to recreate Munch's lithographs as a screen print. Warhol did the same for Munch's Madonna, The Brooch, and Self-Portrait with Skeleton's Arm.

3. The original name was not The Scream.

Munch's intended name for these variants was The Scream of Nature. He shared the rationale for this title in a poem he painted on the frame of the 1895 pastel, "I was walking along the road with two Friends / the Sun was setting – The Sky turned a bloody red / And I felt a whiff of Melancholy – I stood / Still, deathly tired – over the blue-black / Fjord and City hung Blood and Tongues of Fire / My Friends walked on – I remained behind / – shivering with Anxiety – I felt the great Scream in Nature – EM.”

4. The Scream might also be about suicide.

Munch scholar Sue Prideaux places the creation of the first Scream in a time when the Norwegian painter was broke, fresh off a failed love affair, and fearful of developing the mental illness that ran in his family. To Prideaux, it's no coincidence that the bridge depicted in The Scream was a popular spot for jumpers. Tellingly, it sat within earshot of a slaughterhouse and an insane asylum where Munch's schizophrenic sister resided.

5. THE screamer may have been based on a Peruvian mummy.

Around the time of The Scream's creation, the mummified figure of a Chachapoyas warrior was discovered near the Utcubamba River in Peru's Amazonas Region. With hands cemented in place on either side of a mouth open in an apparent shriek, the mummy bears a striking resemblance to Munch's screamer. Art historian Robert Rosenblum posited Munch found inspiration in the mummy while it was on display at an exhibition in Paris.

6. It inspired the mask of Wes Craven's Scream killer.

The director of the hit slasher franchise counts Munch's Scream as one of his favorite works of art, and has said, "It's a classic reference to just the pure horror of parts of the 20th century, or perhaps just human existence."

7. The Scream also influenced Doctor Who.

In the re-launched sci-fi series, the beloved Doctor faces off against universe threatening aliens known as the Silence. Executive producer Steven Moffat confessed the look of these terrifying creators was inspired in part by Munch's Scream.

8. Thieves left a mocking note when The Scream was first stolen.

On the same day the 1994 Winter Olympics opened in Lillehammer, bandits placed a ladder up to the window of the National Gallery in Oslo, slunk inside, and made off with The Scream. They were so pleased with the ease of this crime that they added insult to robbery, leaving a note that read, "Thanks for the poor security." Thankfully, the painting was recovered within three months.

9. Armed gunmen stole The Scream in 2004.

In a daring daylight heist, two masked men rushed into Oslo's Munch Museum and made off with The Scream and Madonna. By May of 2006, three men had been convicted for the theft. But despite the city of Oslo offering a 2 million krone (about $313,000 U.S.) reward, the paintings remained missing.

10. Two million M&M's were offered as a reward for its return…

In August 2006, Mars, Inc. became involved in the recovery efforts as a marketing ploy to promote the brand's new dark chocolate M&Ms. Along with an ad that featured the red M&M playing hopscotch within the iconic painting, Mars offered up the sweet reward.

11. …AND IT KIND OF WORKED.

Just a few days after the promotion started, a convict gave up the whereabouts of the missing paintings during a plea deal, asking for conjugal visits and the 2.2 tons of candy. However, Mars decided if anyone would get the prize, it should be the Norwegian authorities who collared the guy in the first place. The police decided it would be best if the cash value ($26,000) went to the Munch Museum.

12. Gambling men bet on The Scream being stolen again.

Specifically, London bookies were offering 20/1 odds that the only Scream to be in private hands would be snatched before it hit the auction block at a highly anticipated Sotheby's sale on May 2, 2012. Published estimates put the piece's value at $80 million. Ultimately, the second pastel Scream sold for $119.9 million, making it, at the time, "the world’s most expensive work of art ever to sell at auction."

13. We may be scientifically wired to respond to The Scream.

Studies performed by Harvard neurobiology professor Margaret Livingstone on macaque monkeys show that the brain is more likely to respond to faces that are exaggerated, like The Scream's distended mouth. Livingstone offers, "That's why I think a caricature of an emotion works so well. It's what our nerve cells are tuned to."

14. The Scream is in the public domain.

Well, more specifically, The Scream--and all other works by Munch--are in the public domain in nations that embrace the “life plus 70 years” copyright term. As Munch died in 1944, January 1, 2015 marked the issuing of his works into the public domain in countries like Brazil, Israel, Nigeria, Russia, Turkey, and those within the European Union. It was already public domain in the United States because it was created before 1923.

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The Simple Optical Illusion That Makes an Image Look Like It's Drawing Itself
iStock
iStock

Artist James Nolan Gandy invents robot arms that sketch intricate mathematical shapes with pen and paper. When viewed in real time, the effect is impressive. But it becomes even more so when the videos are sped up in a timelapse. If you look closely in the video below, the illustration appears to materialize faster than the robot can put the design to paper. Gizmodo recently explained how the illusion works to make it look like parts of the sketch are forming before the machine has time to draw them.

The optical illusion isn’t an example of tricky image editing: It’s the result of something called the wagon wheel effect. You can observe this in a car wheel accelerating down the highway or in propeller blades lifting up a helicopter. If an object makes enough rotations per second, it can appear to slow down, move backwards, or even stand still.

This is especially apparent on film. Every “moving image” we see on a screen is an illusion caused by the brain filling in the gaps between a sequence of still images. In the case of the timelapse video below, the camera captured the right amount of images, in the right order, to depict the pen as moving more slowly than it did in real life. But unlike the pen, the drawing formed throughout the video isn't subject to the wagon-wheel effect, so it still appears to move at full speed. This difference makes it look like the sketch is drawing itself, no pen required.

Gandy frequently shares behind-the-scenes videos of his mechanical art on his Instagram page. You can check out some of his non-timelapse clips like the one below to better understand how his machines work, then visit his website to browse and purchase the art made by his 'bots.

And if you think his stuff is impressive, make sure to explore some of the incredible art robots have made in the past.

[h/t Gizmodo]

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Tessa Angus
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Surprising Sculptures Made From Fallen Feathers
Kate MccGwire, Orchis, 2012
Kate MccGwire, Orchis, 2012
Tessa Angus

Kate MccGwire is a British sculptor with an unusual medium: feathers. Her surreal, undulating works often take the form of installations—the feathers spilling out of a drain, a stove, a crypt wall—or stand-alone sculptures in which antique bell jars, cabinets, or trunks contain otherworldly shapes.

MccGwire developed her obsession with feathers after moving to a studio barge on the Thames in 2006, as she explains in a video from Crane.tv recently spotlighted by Boing Boing. The barge was near a large shed full of feral pigeons, whose feathers she would spot on her way to work. "I started picking them up and laying them out, collecting them," she remembers. "And after about two weeks I had like 300 feathers." At the time, concerns about bird flu were rife, which made the feathers seem "dangerous as well as beautiful."

When not supplied by her own next-door menagerie, the feathers for her artwork come from a network of racing pigeon societies all over the UK, who send her envelopes full every time the birds molt. Farmers and gamekeepers also send her fallen feathers from birds such as magpies, pheasants, and roosters.

The cultural associations around birds are a big part of what inspires MccGwire. “The dove is the symbol of peace, purity, and fertility," she told ArtNews in 2013, "but it’s exactly the same species as a pigeon—which everyone regards as being dirty, foul, a pest.”

The same duality is present in her own work, which she frequently shares on her Instagram account. “I want to seduce by what I do—but revolt in equal measure. It’s really important to me that you’ve got that rejection of things you think you know for sure.”

You can see some pictures of MccGwire's work, and watch the video from Crane.tv, below.

Kate MccGwire's installation "Evacuate"
Evacuate, 2010
J Wilde

Kate MccGwire's sculpture "Convolous"
Convolous, 2015
JP Bland

Kate MccGwire's installation "Gyre"
Gyre, 2012
Tessa Angus

Kate MccGwire's sculpture "Gag"
Gag, 2009
JP Bland

Kate MccGwire's sculpture "Writhe"
Writhe, 2010
Tessa Angus

Kate MccGwire's sculpture "Quell"
Quell, 2011
Tessa Angus

Kate MccGwire's sculpture "Taunt"
Taunt, 2012
Tessa Angus

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