How To Paint Psychological Theme: Edvard Munch, Painting a Scream of Anguish

If you want to see the paintings creating an intense psychological response; if you want to hear the scream of the anguish of the people painted on a canvas; or if you want to examine a highly symbolic painting; then you would surely like to see the paintings done by Edvard Munch.

Edvard Munch - Pikene på broen
Girls on the bridge Edvard Munch Oil on canvas 1902

Edvard Munch (1863-1944) was a Norwegian by birth. His paintings are famous across the continents. The boundaries of a country can hardly cage an artist. That is how great artists spread their wings. His style of painting had influenced German impressionism paintings greatly.

Munch's painting is sold at record break prices. Look at this painting Girls on the bridge. It was sold for $54.5 Million at Sotheby New York in the year 2016. However, his other paintings were sold at a much higher price subsequently.

This painting Girls on the bridge was a very popular painting by Edvard Munch. It is the painting that was painted during the period which was the most turbulent part of Munch’s life. He had infused the feeling of the lyrical composition in the painting. However, this p[ainting is considered to be one of the paintings done under the style of impressionism. 

For his personal life, the diseases of plague and tuberculosis had played havoc in his life. These diseases had killed most of the flock of his elder family members. It made him pass an orphan’s life. But, he survived the shock. Edvard Munch painted a series of six paintings titled Sick Child. In these paintings, he had depicted the ill effect of the disease.

Painting Analysed: The painting Two Girls under an Apple Tree in Bloom is one of the paintings Munch did under the influence of impressionism. Look at the bold strokes applied and the pure colours used in the painting. 

Two Girls under an Apple Tree in Bloom
Edvard Munch Oil on canvas   
Museum Boijmans Van
Beuningen, Rotterdam, Netherlands 

However, the celebration of the colours is not matched by the facial expressions of the girls painted. They seem to be expressionless. Look at the beauty of nature painted and the joy that the hues of the coloured spread; look at the colour of their dresses, blue and red; but the ladies, standing among these positive things, do not seem influenced by the surrounding. The artist had succeeded here in visualising the contrast.

Those who think they need proper training to be an artist; those who think they need the support of a great painter to learn the art; Edvard Munch disproved all of them. 

Munch almost learned the art himself. His Paris connection and his connections with master artists like Paul Gauguin and Lautrec inspired him. In Paris, he took his lessons in impressionism. In Paris, he learnt how to infuse the psychological aspects of the art.   

From my rotting body, flowers shall grow and I am in them and that is eternity.-Edvard Munch

Every great artist has his or her stock of the rivals. Edvard Much had his share, too. His style of painting earned him sharp criticisms. The reason was that he depicted violent emotion. His imagery was quite unconventional, depicting anguish, isolation, rejection and death. His representations were too frank. His style of the painting looked much sketchy, his paintings also looked unfinished: that was what Edvard Munch's critics believed, spread and wrote in critical articles. 

The critics kept criticising his work; Munch continued to climb the ladder of success. His alternate residing in Paris and Berlin taught him what he needed. During this period (1890-1910), he continued exhibiting his paintings at Salon, Paris and Berlin and all over the European cities. He kept selling his canvases at high prices. He kept painting several versions of his already sold paintings. That is what great artists do. Munch did the same.

The Sick Child Edvard Munch Gothenburg
Museum of Art, Gothenburg, Sweden 

It is a stubborn fact that an artist hardly can get out of his own suppressed emotions. An artist, having an emotional character, cannot forget the extraordinary shocks he or she has suffered in life. These suppressed emotions and terrible shocks haunt the psychic of an artist forever. Besides, the feeling of loss also affects his or her artistic work. That had happened in Edvard Munch's life, too. 

The Sick Child Analysed: Munch had lost most of his family members and close relatives in his younger age. That shock had made him paint such profound grief in this painting. His series of the painting titled The Sick Child had also depicted the similar anguish he was feeling due to the loss of his loved ones. He had painted at least six paintings in the series.  Edvard Munch was unable to forget the loss of his elder sister. He was when his sister died. He had painted The sick Child depicting his sister, portraying his own grief and loss.

The Scream Analysed: Edvard Munch's most famous painting was The Scream (1983). It is believed that the paintings titled The Scream are nothing but the artist's self-portraits. (The paintings are given at the end of the article.) This painting is seen as one of the symbols of the psychological torment prevailing in the present time. There is a series of famous paintings The Scream. Edvard Much painted several versions of this popular painting. One was stolen, too. Two of Munch's paintings were stolen from the gallery, in the year 2004. The armed robbers did that robbery. However, both the paintings were recovered by the police in the year 2006. 

Self Portrait Edvard Munch
National Museum
Oslo, Norway

"I had painted a moment of existential crisis," this was what he said when he was required to explain his painting The Scream. These paintings are the paintings of the soul of the artists who painted these art pieces. It was a depiction of his inner call that as an artist he could not ignore.

Several theories are placed to analyse this unique painting: The Scream. No one is certain about the foreground-person screaming: whether he or she was a real person or a representation of the human race in general? What about the two figures painted at a distance? What do they symbolise? Was Edvard Munch himself suffering from a mental disorder? None of the questions is answered till today. If we are to analyse The Scream in one sentence, we can say that: the entire painting is depicting the mind of the person screaming, and his mind is stretched out of his skull and expanded into the surrounding.

At an auction in 2012, at Sotheby, The Scream (1895) was sold for an unbelievable price of $120 million. If the price is adjusted at the 2019 level of prices it would amount to $133.6 million. This painting is loved by art-lovers. Only the painting of the Mona Lisa has an edge, over The Scream painting's popularity. Here are three versions of the painting The Scream. [All the images are in Public Domain, taken from Wikimedia Commons]

Edvard Munch - The Scream - Google Art Project
Edvard Munch The Scream 
1910 Tempera and oil on an 
unprimed cardboard Munch 
Museum 
Oslo Norway



The Scream Pastel
Edvard Munch The Scream
1895 Pastel on board
This painting was sold
For $120 at Sotheby
Auction in 2012


The Scream by Edvard Munch, 1893 - Nasjonalgalleriet
Edvard Munch
The Scream 1893 Oil
Tempera pastel on Board
National Gallery
of Norway, Oslo




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