Tuesday, May 8, 2012

What is so good about The Scream?

If you're unfamiliar, "The Scream" is a painting made by Edvard Munch around 1893-1910.  It recently sold for ~$119 million dollars.

Seriously, what's so good about this?

Yes, it's a historical piece of art.  Yes, its fame derives a lot from its age and influence.  And I've been staring at it while writing this post, and yes, I guess I kind of like the colors of the water and the sky.  They look deep and bold.

But what the heck is with the focus of the picture: the actual scream?  People seem to say that the scene looks and feels like "a thriller," or they can feel the darkness and anxiety of the subject.  How?  I certainly don't.

Of course, this is probably a matter of tastes.  I've always been a fan of, in the words of a show my sister was showing me yesterday, the "double-layer trap" in creative works.  If you're writing a sad book, you shouldn't use the words "sad," "depressed," "gloomy," etc.  Likewise, if you're directing a sad movie, you shouldn't pepper it with excessive crying and slow-mo.  And if you're painting a sad painting, you shouldn't have to pour a gallon of gray paint all over your work and say, "aha!  My colors are dark!  My painting is now officially saddening!"

If your work is good, it should lend itself to the emotion you're targetting.  And if it's not, slapping a crying man in the picture isn't going to help you.

I'm not criticizing Munch.  Wait, yes I am.  Not that I have the authority or qualifications to (I'm an awful artist), but in my extremely unprofessional opinion, "the scream" takes a whole lot of potential out of "The Scream."


  1. "the actual scream" as you put it, is not the person. The scream comes from the surroundings, that's why the person is covering his ears and tries to block it out. Munch, plagued by anxiety attacks, describes how he felt that the sky turned blood red and screamed at him.