top of page

The Scream: Inside The Head Of The Panicked Edvard Munch

Updated: Apr 27

A collage of The Scream and self portrait of artist Edvard Munch burning a cigarette
The Scream And Self Portrait of Edvard Munch Burning Cigarette | National Gallery, Oslo

In the delusion world around us, we seek tranquillity and peace. The truth is what we see is not always the ultimate reality and is the illusion created by forces around us. Therefore, when we look at the illusion of our vision, our brain reacts to it, drowning us in a sea of hopelessness and despair. The effect of this will-o'-the-wisp is so vast that we sometimes think it is reality, hoping to end with fear, anxiety, dilemmas, and stress. In certain ways, we try to help ourselves, but our braindead system is unable to reach beyond a point, so we do frightful things that even scare us from the inside. The following human emotion is a tough nut to crack for a few of us, but it is strenuous to explain through words. However, one artist who showcased this dreadful experience through colours is Edward Munch through his controversial painting, The Scream.

When talking of the scream analysis, the first thing in our mind is, Why has the artist created this? To answer the question is a responsibility, so knowing a brief background of the artist is the first appropriate and vital step. No, we are not here for an enormous biography but for the essential information to understand the concept behind this artwork.

Portrait of famous Norwegian painter Edvard Munch
Edvard Munch Portrait | Munch Museum, Oslo

Despite growing up in an ill-healthy middle-class family, Munch was able to achieve great things in his life. As a child, Munch lost his mother to tuberculosis, and the death of his eldest sister to tuberculosis when he was 14; his first masterpiece, The Sick Child (1885–86), captured the latter event. He was to recover from the pain of losing his mother and sister, but on the same journey, he lost his father and brother too. In a short period, his other sister got affected by a mental illness. He describes his life in three words,

"Illness, insanity and death."

In addition, he said,

"were the black angels that kept watch over my cradle and accompanied me all my life."

History Of The Scream Painting.

Words can not describe his brutal life, but his artworks which symbolise deep pain, can do it. Traumatised by fear, death, love, and pain, he drew masterpieces in his life. Coming on the scream painting, which has four editions. It comes from the Symbolistic movement, which in addition was inspired by the Expressionist movement. Symbolism was a late 19th-century French art movement, which represents absolute truth symbolically against naturalism and realism.

In 1893, he drew the first version, a crayon-coloured artwork. It is currently at the Munch Museum, and the other edition in tempera belongs to The National Gallery. Very few critics believe that the pastel colour version could be the preparatory sketch for the final artwork. We will cover all the variations of the painting in the following section. The artwork has a rough coloured lining of blue, yellow and red. In the artwork, there was a hard-to-see inscription writing,

"Kan Kun være malet af en gal Mand!"

that sounds “could only have been painted by a madman”. Due to this part of the painting, it was the discussion of whether the handwriting belonged to him. It was him who wrote these words.

The Scream Painting Meaning.

You must be excited to read what is next. No, we are almost to discuss and analyse the artwork, but before that, we have Munch's diary note from 22 January 1892, which says,

"I was walking along the road with two friends – then the Sun set – all at once the sky became blood red – and I felt overcome with melancholy. I stood still and leaned against the railing, dead tired – clouds like blood and tongues of fire hung above the blue-black fjord and the city. My friends went on, and I stood alone, trembling with anxiety. I felt a great, unending scream piercing through nature."

The most awaited time of history is here when we are finally about to discuss the complete artwork. That sounds rip-roaring to know the entire analysis.

The Scream Analysis.


Edvard Munch

Year Painted

1893, 1895 and 1910

Medium and Versions

Tempera on cardboard, Crayon on cardboard, Pastel on cardboard, and Lithograph


Edvard Munch's Frieze of Life


Post-expressionism and Symbolism


91 cm x 73.5 cm


The Scream pastel on cardboard sold for $119.9 Million in 2012

Where is it housed?

The 1893 version resides at the National Gallery in Oslo, Norway

The 1910 version resides at The Munch Museum in Oslo, Norway.

The artwork shows a delusional and fictional red-orange sky. It was the subject of discussion for every art critic and scholar. We know there is no volcanic eruption to prove the reddish sky, and so do the scholars. The popular examination said that maybe Munch referred to the autumn sky, which was absolutely wrong here. Later, it ended with the factual statement that during his composition, he lived in Kristiania, now Oslo, the capital of Norway. During that respective period, the volcano on Krakatoa Island in Indonesia erupted, which turned the sky blood red. This was the dominant force behind this classic colouring of the sky. You could see the swirling sky like waves of different colours. Maybe this swirling withstands his position of mind, which begins restlessness and anxiety. The delusion comes in a spiral way and circulates you into a vicious cycle of dilemma and obnoxious feelings. The reason behind these curved lines, and not the straight ones in the sky, coincides with this thought.

The Scream art by Edvard Munch in National Gallery Oslo
The Scream | National Gallery Oslo

Next, we see two long figures in dark clothes on a bridge with straight lines. They have worn black coats and hats and are suspicious-looking creatures. Now it has one distilled meaning of separation from his friends. The scream art is autobiographical, so there is no doubt that the figures represent his friends.

This expressionist art composition consists of swirling water with two boats on the right. If you look closely, there is an embankment and a water source in the middle of it. In addition, the brush strokes moving from lighter shades of blue to darker ones is also noteworthy here.

Finally, there is a face with a scream. While alone and separated from his friends, there were voices engraved in his head. We can see that the bustling thoughts of fear and tremendous torture in his brain made him scream from inside. There is a clear reflection of mind abnormality, which in extreme can destroy the human extremes. At the start, the central figure compares itself to the Peruvian mummy by art historian Robert Rosenblum. The figure shows itself as a disturbing and morbid experience which have agony and misery embedded in it.

The Scream Artwork that was stolen in 2004 from Munch Museum and recovered in 2006
The Stolen Scream Art, Tempera on cardboard | Munch Museum

Colour Analysis Of The Painting.

Munch displayed the artwork in a much more dramatic form through the usage of different colours. Reds and oranges dominate the sunset in the background, while dull blues, greens, purples and greys dominate everything else.

If you look closely, The Scream face also has a contrasting appearance concerning the bloody red colour of the sky. Munch uses hues to dull yellows, blues, and purples to paint the figure. It is clear that both are dramatic twists, and these extremes compliment each other in a higher intensity of colours.

Even closer, you see the background, it looks simple, but the composition consists of clever contrasts of colours: red and green, and orange and blue.

Munch relied on the lines, swirling brushstrokes, and colour contrasts to show his tormented mental condition in this painting.


1994 Thefts.

In 1994, two men stole the 1893 tempera version of the Scream painting from the National Gallery in Oslo. They left a note saying,

"Thanks for the poor security."

With the Norwegian police sting operation with the Getty museum and British Police, the paintings were finally recovered on 7 May 1994.

2004 Thefts.

A gunman broke into the Munch Museum on 22 August 2004 and stole the 1910 version of the Scream painting. A visitor took a photograph of their car with the artwork. In 2005, Norwegian police arrested a suspect, but the composition remained missing, which led people to think that they might have destroyed the painting. On 31 August 2006, Norwegian police recovered it with minimal damage.

Total Versions Of Scream Painting.

There is a total of four versions of the Scream painting in addition to the original. They are as follows-

  • The tempera on cardboard version 1893: The Oslo National Gallery. It got stolen in the year 1994.

The Scream Artwork Tempera Version
The Scream Tempera, 1893 | The National Gallery, Oslo

  • Crayon on cardboard: The Munch Museum Version from 1893. Its colours are not vibrant, and the whole painting appears to be dull comparatively.

Edvard Munch The Scream Pastel Version
The Scream Pastel, 1893 |

  • Pastel on cardboard: Private Collection version from 1895. On one fine day in 2014, this second pastel version sold for the remarkable amount of $119 Million to financier Leon Black’s by Sotheby’s Impressionist and Modern Art auction.

The Scream Pastel Artwork
The Scream Pastel, 1895 | Sotheby's

  • The Munch Museum Replica from 1910. This version was distinguishable since the screaming face had no eyeballs, which made it more vulnerable. In 2004 it was stolen from the Munch Museum, recovered with minimum damage.

Edvard Munch The Scream Tempera, 1910
The Scream Tempera, 1910 | Google Arts & Culture

Other prints:

  1. The Lithograph print: It had 45 prints.

The Scream Lithograph
The Scream Lithograph | Munch Museum

Popular Culture Of The Scream.

The central figure became so famous in the late 90s that a movie franchise, Scream (1996), which spans four films, derived its mask from it.

The mask from movie Scream based on painting The Scream by Edvard Munch
The mask from Movie Scream | Urko Dorronsoro / Flickr

Furthermore, it dominated the book cover of The Primal Scream by Arthur Janov. The expression of Kevin McCallister in the movie Home Alone was also inspired by the same. The principal alien antagonists depicted in the 2011 BBC series of Doctor Who had an appearance from the central figure of the artwork.

The silence from Doctor Who based on Scream art
The Silence from Doctor Who | Paul Hudson / Flickr

What delusions do you think that Edvard Munch's The Scream inherits? Let us know in the comments below.

Frequently Asked Questions.

Who Painted The Scream?

Norwegian painter Edvard Munch painted The Scream when he experienced anxiety at an instance in his life. It is a post-expressionist art which closely relates to the human condition.

How long did The Scream painting take?

It took Edvard Munch 18 months to paint the creative composition of The Scream.

How much is The Scream worth?

The Scream auctioned for $119.9 million in 2012, making it one of the most expensive artworks of that time.

How old is The Scream painting?

Edvard Munch completed the first version of The Scream art in 1893. Since then, the artwork has become one of the masterpieces of history.

Why is The Scream so famous?

The Scream became famous as the artwork showcased human anxiety and the tormented mental state of the artist. Additionally, the artwork was subjected to several thefts, making it even more popular.

Who stole The Scream?

The robbery was carried out by a gang led by Pål Enger, following which he was sentenced to six years and three months in prison.