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.

Art
nextArticle.image_alt|e
Tom Etherington, Penguin Press
The Covers of Jack Kerouac's Classic Titles Are Getting a Makeover
Tom Etherington, Penguin Press
Tom Etherington, Penguin Press

Readers have been enjoying classic Jack Kerouac books like The Dharma Bums and On the Road for decades, but starting this August the novels will have a new look. Several abstract covers have been unveiled as part of Penguin’s "Great Kerouac" series, according to design website It’s Nice That.

The vibrant covers, designed by Tom Etherington of Penguin Press, feature the works of abstract expressionist painter Franz Kline. The artwork is intended to capture “the experience of reading Kerouac” rather than illustrating a particular scene or character, Etherington told It’s Nice That. Indeed, abstract styles of artwork seem a fitting match for Kerouac’s “spontaneous prose”—a writing style that was influenced by improvisational jazz music.

This year marks the 60th anniversary of The Dharma Bums, which was published just one year after On the Road. The Great Kerouac series will be available for purchase on August 2.

[h/t It's Nice That]

nextArticle.image_alt|e
John MacDougall, Getty Images
Stolpersteine: One Artist's International Memorial to the Holocaust
John MacDougall, Getty Images
John MacDougall, Getty Images

The most startling memorial to victims of the Holocaust may also be the easiest to miss. Embedded in the sidewalks of more than 20 countries, more than 60,000 Stolpersteine—German for “stumbling stones”—mark the spots where victims last resided before they were forced to leave their homes. The modest, nearly 4-by-4-inch brass blocks, each the size of a single cobblestone, are planted outside the doorways of row houses, bakeries, and coffee houses. Each tells a simple yet chilling story: A person lived here. This is what happened to them.

Here lived Hugo Lippers
Born 1878
Arrested 11/9/1938 — Altstrelitzer prison
Deported 1942 Auschwitz
Murdered

The project is the brainchild of the German artist Gunter Demnig, who first had the idea in the early 1990s as he studied the Nazis' deportation of Sinti and Roma people. His first installations were guerrilla artwork: According to Reuters, Demnig laid his first 41 blocks in Berlin without official approval. The city, however, soon endorsed the idea and granted him permission to install more. Today, Berlin has more than 5000.

Demnig lays a Stolpersteine.
Artist Gunter Demnig lays a Stolpersteine outside a residence in Hamburg, Germany in 2012.
Patrick Lux, Getty Images

The Stolpersteine are unique in their individuality. Too often, the millions of Holocaust victims are spoken of as a nameless mass. And while the powerful memorials and museums in places such as Berlin and Washington, D.C. are an antidote to that, the Stolpersteine are special—they are decentralized, integrated into everyday life. You can walk down a sidewalk, look down, and suddenly find yourself standing where a person's life changed. History becomes unavoidably present.

That's because, unlike gravestones, the stumbling stones mark an important date between a person’s birth and death: the day that person was forced to abandon his or her home. As a result, not every stumbling stone is dedicated to a person who was murdered. Some plaques commemorate people who fled Europe and survived. Others honor people who were deported but managed to escape. The plaques aim to memorialize the moment a person’s life was irrevocably changed—no matter how it ended.

The ordinariness of the surrounding landscape—a buzzing cafe, a quaint bookstore, a tree-lined street—only heightens that effect. As David Crew writes for Not Even Past, “[Demnig] thought the stones would encourage ordinary citizens to realize that Nazi persecution and terror had begun on their very doorsteps."

A man in a shop holding a hammer making a Stolpersteine.
Artisan Michael Friedrichs-Friedlaender hammers inscriptions into the brass plaques at the Stolpersteine manufacturing studio in Berlin.
Sean Gallup, Getty Images

While Demnig installs every single Stolpersteine himself, he does not work alone. His project, which stretches from Germany to Brazil, relies on the research of hundreds of outside volunteers. Their efforts have not only helped Demnig create a striking memorial, but have also helped historians better document the lives of individuals who will never be forgotten.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios