Tuesday, June 25, 2024

“Only a madman can”

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Tony Vaughn
Tony Vaughn
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“It can only be painted by a madman”: Although insulting as much as it is almost imperceptible, the inscription added to “Le Cri” was not traced by anyone other than the artist himself, Edvard Munch, concluded the Norwegian National Museum.

The few words in Norwegian, written in pencil in the left corner above the famous canvas, which have become a symbol of existential anxiety, have fueled speculations about the identity of its longtime author.

The prevailing theory thus far was that it was the legacy of a disaffected viewer at the turn of the twentieth century by making a ghostly figure with a pale face in front of the vaults of brightly colored skies.

But the infrared thermal examination, by the Norwegian National Museum, which contains the relevant version of “The Scream” – Munch (1863-1944), reached four of them – in his collections, led to another conclusion.

“The engraving is without a doubt from Munch,” museum curator May Brett Golling said in a statement released on Monday.

“The writing itself, as well as the events that occurred in 1895 when Munch showed his painting for the first time in Norway, all point in the same direction,” she added.

The public premiere of the work in Oslo – then called Christiania – that year sparked criticism and raised questions about the artist’s mental health, which, according to Ms. Golling, undoubtedly led to a chalkboard scribble.

Munch, a pioneer of expressionism, was haunted by a sense of pain fueled by the sudden death of those close to him, in particular the deaths of his mother and sister, Johann Sophie, who both died of illness. In 1908, he was temporarily placed in a psychiatric institution.

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This version of “The Scream” was stolen in 1994, on the opening day of the Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, before it was found a few months later.

The painting will be shown again to the public on the occasion of the scheduled opening in 2022 of the National Museum of Norway, which will bring together collections from several institutions.

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