Wednesday, May 2, 2012

A Poem and The Scream

I've been an art history major for the last two years, and I think one of the most exciting things about this subject is continually subverting my held notions of an artist or specific work.  For example, this year I've been teaching art history to 1st graders through 6th graders (it was a class with several ages mixed together) and I came to more fully appreciate Vincent van Gogh through the research I did in preparing to introduce these kids to one of the world's most famous painters.  And for me, having my pervious notions subverted can come in little ways, either by simply learning more about the personal life and struggles of the artist, as I did with Van Gogh, or like today when I learned something new that no professor had ever mentioned about Edvard Munch.  You may not recognize Munch's name, or perhaps you do, but he is best known for his painting called "The Scream".  I've seen this painting a lot ever since I first saw it in high school, and have always wondered why it's so famous.  Now, I don't propose to answer that question here, but here's some insight I gained today:

Apparently Edvard Munch was inspired to paint this subject after reading the following poem:

"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."

Now I think this brings a different light to the painting, and you can better understand the feelings being conveyed by the work and what Munch wanted his audience to get from it

UPDATE: Edvard Munch's 1895 pastel of "The Scream" sold May 2nd at Sotheby's in New York for $120 million, setting a record for the most expensive piece of art ever sold at auction. The sale eclipsed the previous record of $106 million for Picasso's "Nude, Green Leaves, and Bust."  Pretty crazy!


  1. Looking forward to meeting you, Jess!

  2. That poem does explain the painting quite well! (And, I have thought about going back to college to get an Art History degree... maybe someday!)

    Thanks for the comment about Gloria Whelan's Russian books. I did realize, after reading the 2nd book in the series, that it was one of four books. I plan on reading them all with my daughter either this summer or in the fall. We'll be homeschooling (again) and I think it'd make a great basis for a short study on Russian history.

    1. I hope you and your daughter enjoy the books and get to do a study of Russian history! I love Russian history and culture, it's really so fascinating. I help my mom homeschool my little brother, and I was just thinking the other day how it's sad that in most schools we don't expose kids to a more varied view of history, we tend to focus on American history and some forays into the general field of "world history". It would be so cool to have short studies on the history of various countries wouldn't it!?