The Scream versions: More to Edvard Munch painting than meets the eye

Iram Sharifah Khan February 22, 2021
Photo by Mikhail JaparidzeTASS via Getty Images

Norwegian expressionist painter Edvard Munch is best known for his 1893 composition, The Scream of Nature – commonly referred to as just The Scream. But did you know there are different versions of The Scream?

Did you know there are different versions of The Scream?

If you look up when The Scream was painted, different sites will give you varied dates between the years of 1893 to 1910. This is because there are in fact different versions of the painting that were completed during this period.

Painted version

The four versions of The Scream

Munch’s most widely recognised painting, The Scream is said to have been completed in four versions, all of which are the work by Munch himself.

The first version was finished in 1983, before another one was realised in paint and two more in pastels.

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Pastel version

There are also a few lithograph versions dating from 1895.

Munch eventually died a the age of 80, on 23 January 1944. He spent much of his later life hiding his paintings from the Nazis so they would not be confiscated, as his works were labelled “degenerate art” and banned by the regime.

Mystery inscription solved

The National Museum of Norway recently allowed for an infrared photo to be taken of Munch’s artwork, which revealed an inscription in the top left corner of the canvas reading: “Kan Kun være malet af en gal Mand!”

This translates from Norwegian to “could only have been painted by a madman”. The inscription had been known for a while, and even photographed, but it was always thought to have been the work of a disgruntled museum visitor.

However, thanks to the infrared technology used in the most recent photographs, it was discovered that this inscription was a part of the original painting and left there by Munch himself. The running theory now is that the painter scribbled it on the canvas during an episode of poor mental health, which he was known to have suffered with.

The museum curator, Mai Britt Guleng stated: “You have to get quite close to see the inscription. We seldom find such inscriptions on paintings, particularly not on one of the world’s most famous ones. Given that it’s such an important work in the history of international art, the inscription has received remarkably little attention.”

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Iram is a London-based freelance journalist with a BA in Journalism and Media from Birkbeck University. She studied several modules, including Journalism in British Life, Interview skills and Feature Writing, Introduction to Journalism Practice and Manga and Anime. Iram went from university to work with GRV Media at The Focus Writers’ Academy and enjoys learning Japanese, taking singing lessons, playing video games and watching Korean dramas in her spare time.