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ARTIST CASE STUDY - EDVARD MUNCH

The Scream, 1893. Oil, tempera and pastel and crayon


on cardboard. 91 x 73.5 cm. National Art Gallery, Oslo,
Norway.
Structural frame
The work was created by combining oil paint, tempera,
pastel and crayon on a cardboard surface. A striking feature
of the artwork is its fluidity, due to Munchs manipulation
of line. Munch applies strong brush strokes in the curved
distorted and straight lines, which serve as vectors towards
the screaming figure in the foreground. The bold lines
course through the individual and to form it. The straight
lines forming the railings and the jetty provide a contrast to
the distorted lines forming the landscape, dissociating the screaming figure from manmade society. The organic lines, with their strong associations of movement, appear to
allow the scream to resonate, metaphorically rendering the artwork a medium in which
sound can travel. Munchs colour choice and appreciation of light also defines the
artwork. The scene in the lower two-thirds of the painting is generally gloomy as the use
of blue, black and grey shades suggests despair and sadness. The vivacious orange and
red tones intensifies the colour palette in the painting, creating a chaotic atmosphere and
communicating the figures distress and anguish.Light is also vital in identifying the face
as the focal point of the picture, as it is pale while its surroundings are dark. Sunlight
seems to be at its highest intensity where the two background figures are situated. The
balance in composition is visible in the cold colours which appear to balance the warm
colours used to depict the sky, and the contrast of straight lines with curved lines. The
work is now in the collection of the National Art Gallery, Oslo, Norway. It was exhibited
behind security glass since its theft in 1994, in which it was returned a few weeks later.
Cultural frame
The work was created in 1893, and appears to be based on personal events in Munchs
life. In a diary entry in 1892, Munch writes he was "walking along a path with two
friends - the sun was setting - suddenly the sky turned blood red... I stood there trembling
with anxiety - I sensed an infinite scream passing through nature." It can also be
interpreted as Munchs response to his personal circumstances. In Munchs childhood, he
suffered the sadness of losing his mother and sister to tuberculosis, and his father at the
age of twenty-five. His sister Laura soon was committed to a mental institution due to
having been diagnosed as a manic depressive. Munchs horror of the insanity which had
afflicted her sister may have been expressed in The Scream. Themes of death and
depression can be identified with the area portrayed, as many suicides had been
committed there, and within the vicinity were a slaughterhouse and an old mental asylum
for women, hence the artwork entitled The Scream. The work was painted during a
transitional period in art history, after the end of the Realist era. Since the work conveys
the raw inner feelings of the artist, it perhaps helped to ignite the beginnings of the

Expressionist movement.
Subjective frame
The work is almost instantly appealing as it expresses Munchs uninhibited, potent
emotions. The techniques also attract attention as Munchs contrast between the freeflowing, contorted lines and the rigidity of the jetty. The work invokes insight and
confronts the viewer by requiring them to ponder the nature of the artwork. The
genderless, distorted figure embodies a sense of horror, suffering depression, thus
representing various elements of the human condition. The artwork is relevant to the
theme as it evokes curiosity from the audience, as the scene and the protagonist are
inexplicable and arguably unnatural. The Scream also documents Munchs recorded
experience of sensing an infinite scream passing through nature as an artwork, and is an
autobiographical medium through which Munch expressed feelings of indescribable
sadness, pain and agony, as well as being representative of his internal struggle to retain
his sanity or submit to madness.

Anxiety, 1894. Oil on canvas. 94.0 x 74.0 cm. Munch


Museum, Oslo, Norway.
Structural frame
The work is an oil painting on canvas. The continuity and
organicity of line is apparent. Although it shares many
elements with The Scream, the line and stroke appear
to be more refined, perhaps due to Munchs use of only
one material (oil paint). Munch has again repeated his
use of dark, funereal hues in the lower two-thirds of the
artwork, which is sharply contrasted with the vibrant
shades of yellow and orange in the sky. In Munchs
manipulation of line, unlike The Scream, very little
straight line has been used and the curved line of the
landscape dominates the artwork. The concentrically enlarging lines and their soft edges
appear to embrace the natural landscape, however ultimately have the effect of alienating
the mass of people on the jetty. The same Oslo fjord represented in The Scream recurs
in this painting. The painted faces are blurred, and towards the end of the line become
indistinguishable, with the shade of green perhaps used to represent the afflictions
suffered collectively by all members of humanity.
Cultural frame
This work was created in 1894. It is an existentialist work, similar to The Scream, in
and Munch similarly expresses the fundamental experiences of humanity. Munch aimed
to depict "people behind their masks - smiling, phlegmatic - composed faces - ...along a
twisted road - at the end of which was the grave." The dark mass of figures along the
expanse of the jetty, with their mask-like faces, ironically appear to be experience a sense
of seclusion that was gradually becoming naturalised as an element of life in the modern

urban environment.
Subjective frame
The work is interesting. The element that draws the audiences attention first, if they are
familiar with some works of Edward Munch, will be that it appears to be closely related
to The Scream, in terms of ideas conveyed and the structural frame. The main
difference that can be noted is while The Scream depicts a suffering individual,
Anxiety represents the sufferings of a mass of people. An interesting possibility is that
Munch was attempting to present angst as central to human plight, by sustaining the
message of despair that was previously depicted in The Scream. Although the message
is not as distinctive as the emotions of pain and desperation are applied to a group, rather
than an isolated individual, it could be more accessible as it refers to a wider audience.
The jetty also seems to represent a point of no return, in which anxious humanity is
pressed forward towards an inevitable conclusion, which is perhaps death, and this
thought gives the artwork an ominous quality.The balance of the colour palette is also
very attractive. Anxiety is relevant to the theme as it evokes curiosity by representing
depressed humans in an abnormal, alien-like form, against an unnaturally vivid
background, drawing the audience to question the meanings of the artwork. It also
represents the same memory of the Oslo fjord view that is depicted in The Scream.
Jealousy, 1895. Oil on canvas. 67.0 x
100 cm. Rasmus Meyer Collection,
Bergen, Norway.
Structural frame
The work is an oil painting on canvas. In
this artwork, Munch emphasises elements
such as colour, shape and structural
features to give it a symbolic context.
Darkness is emphasised in the foreground
of the picture, where Munch portrays his
poet friend Stainslaw Przybyszewski expressing gloominess and jealousy towards
Munchs amorous relationship with the poets wife, Dagny Juell. His frustration and
mourning at betrayal and loss in evident in the black attire that Munch has chosen to
adorn him with. Dagny is painted under what could be seen as a biblical reference to the
Tree of Knowledge, in which she is depicted as Eve. The scarlet on her face and in the
garment she wears is symbolic of sin and impurity, and the exposure of her naked front
reveals the truth hidden by the lies. This sensuous redness is reflected in the face of the
metaphorical Adam, who most likely is Munch, the apple being picked by Eve and the
potted plant. The reference effectively displays temptation and betrayal, by alluding to
Adam and Eves betrayal of God. This redness is juxtaposed to the colorless features of
Przybyszewski. Shape is also controlled to describe the narrative of the painting.
Triangular imagery is evident in many aspects of the painting - the pointed face to
Przybyszewksi, the womans shoulder and underneath the left arm. the formation of
apples under her outstretched right arm, the lines of the womans pubis and the potted

plant in front of the door. This helps to reinstate the charged triangular situation of the
relationship portrayed in the artwork. Structural features are also evident, in the definition
of picture planes by the artist. The foreground is occupied by Przybyszewski, the middle
plane by the tree and the door to Eden, while the biblical reference occurs in the distant
space within the picture. This emphasises the distance between the poet and his wife in
the relationship.
Cultural frame
This work was created in 1895. The circumstances of the artworks making was the affair
that Munch had with the Dagny Juell, the wife of Stainislaw Przybyszewski, his poet
friend. He depicts the envious reservations that Przybyszewski must have held, as well as
his discomfort due to his wifes betrayal. Thematically, his painting is a narrative which
holds a biblical allegory of Adam and Eves betrayal towards God (symbolic of Dagnys
betrayal of her legitimate marital relationship with Przybyszewski) and the temptation of
the affair, represented by Eve picking the apple. Munch deviates from the original version
in which Adam and Eve were nude, to restate the theme in a contemporary context while
the clothed figures also suggest that the innocence of the original sinners has been seized
from the two. The temptation could have also been symbolic of Munchs conflicting
feelings of attraction, confusion and fear towards women; desire is tinged with
melancholy and anxiety. Jealousy can be linked to the 1890 Art Nouveau style.
Subjective frame
The artwork is interesting as Munch cleverly represents a personal narrative by using a
biblical allegory and referring to the triangular relationship in terms of Adam and Eves
betrayal and temptation. The use of colour to symbolise various aspects within the
narrative is also intriguing. The gloominess of Przybyszewski in contrast to the sensuality
of the background effectively portrays the betrayal and jealousy felt by the brooding
foreground figure. Jealousy is relevant to the theme as again, it is an autobiographical
recount of the affair that Munch had with Dagny, in which Munch depicts himself as
Adam in modern dress. It also represents trace in Munchs portrayal of Przybyszewski so
that he is recognisable as a character within the artwork narrative, with his distinctive
bearded features, while a lack of trace, perhaps intentional, is also visible where Munch
keeps the identities of Adam and Eve inconspicuous (unless the context is understood),
with imperceptible features to preserve the obscurity of the relationship.