The Scream

  • Artist: Edvard Munch
  • Creation date: 1893
  • Object type: Painting

On display: Room 060 The Collection Exhibition - Edvard Munch


The Scream is one of the most well-known pictures in the history of art, and has become a popular icon of our time. The figure in the picture has been used in many different contexts, and appears in everything from political posters to horror films. It even has its own emoji. The motif Edvard Munch created 130 years ago has now become a symbol we use to convey emotions.

From despair to a scream

In 1892 Munch painted the picture Sick Mood at Sunset. Despair, a motif that bears many similarities to The Scream. The colours, the format and size, the landscape and background figures – all are the same. Nevertheless, The Scream is radically different, because the main figure has been changed. In the first picture we see a clearly defined male figure wearing a hat and coat. In The Scream this figure has become a mysterious presence that is difficult to define. Is the figure we see a woman or a man? Is it wearing a black coat, or a dress? Is it a skull or a face we are looking at? Why doesn’t the figure have hair? These difficult and indistinct features of the figure make The Scream into a visual enigma.

A ground-breaking artwork 

The Scream is both simple and complex. It is complex because it lends itself to so many different interpretations. Its simplicity has to do with the actual execution of the picture. We know that Munch drew sketches and worked with the motif over a long period of time, but the painting technique and lack of detail give the impression that it was painted quickly and spontaneously. This approach, along with the vibrant, non-realistic colours, signified a new way of creating art. The Scream marks a decisive point in art history where form and content are closely interrelated and are meant to express the same subject matter. The work is a key turning point from the symbolism movement in art to the expressionism of the 1900s.  

An image of anxiety 

Before painting The Scream, Munch wrote a text that relates to the content of the picture:  

I was walking along the road with two 
friends – then the sun went {I went} down 
Suddenly the sky turned blood-red 
– and I felt 
a breath of melancholy 
– an exhausting pain 
under my heart – I paused, leaning against the fence, tired to death – above the blue-black fjord and city there was blood ‹in› tongues of fire 
My friends went on and I stood
there trembling
with anxiety –
and I felt that a gre{a}t infinit\e/ scre{a}m went through nature

(1892, MM T 2367) 

The landscape we see in the picture is recognisable through this description, and shows the Kristiania fjord (Oslo fjord) seen from Ekeberg hill. Two men, who are referred to as two friends in the poem, are walking in the background on the left. The Scream is often interpreted as a universal expression of anxiety and alienation, which is the subject of the poem he wrote. 


Edvard Munch

Visual artist, Painter, Graphic artist, Photographer, Drawing artist

Born 12.12.1863 in Løten, Hedmark, death 23.01.1944 in Oslo

Edvard Munch worked as an artist for over sixty years. He was creative, ambitious and hardworking. He produced nearly two thousand paintings, hundreds of graphic motifs and thousands of drawings. In addition, he wrote poems, prose and diaries. The Scream, Madonna, Death in the Sickroom and the other symbolist works from the 1890s have made him one of the most famous artists of our time.

"Don't become an artist!"

Edvard wanted to become an artist early on, and there was no doubt that he had talent. But his father refused to allow him to follow his dream, so Edvard began studying engineering. But already after one year he chose to defy his father, and switched from engineering college to the Norwegian National Academy of Craft and Art Industry in Kristiania, now Oslo.

A talented and provocative bohemian

It was obvious to everyone in the Norwegian art community that the young man showed rare talent. In 1883, at the age of 20, he debuted at Høstutstillingen (The Autumn Exhibition). In 1886, Munch became acquainted with author and anarchist Hans Jæger, a leading figure in the Kristiania bohemian community. The bohemian community convinced Munch that the arts had to renew themselves to reach people and to have relevance in their lives. In the same year he exhibited the painting The Sick Child. This generated debate!

Courage led to breakthrough

Some acclaimed The Sick Child a work of genius, while others deemed it unfinished and unworthy of exhibition. Today it is considered to mark Munch's breakthrough. It was here that demonstrated the independence and willingness to break fresh ground.

From this point until his final brush strokes, his artistic practice can be summed up in just word: experimentation. Munch did not care about established "rules" for so-called good art. His techniques in both painting and graphics were innovative.

From people's emotional life to agriculture and landscape

Henrik Ibsen's plays about humanity's existential challenges inspired Munch. Themes such as death, love, sexuality, jealousy and anxiety were central to his early images. Some themes sprang from personal experience. For example, Death in the Sickroom and The Sick Child are linked to his memory of his mother and sister's illnesses and early deaths.

After 1910, Munch chose a quieter and secluded life. At his own farms at Ekely in Oslo and in Hvitsten, he found entirely new motifs, such as agriculture, working life and landscapes. Man in the Cabbage Field is a typical example from this period.

Work info

Creation date:
Other titles:
Skrik (NOR)
Object type:
Materials and techniques:
Tempera og fettstift på papplate
  • Width: 73.5 cm
  • Height: 91 cm
Motif - type:
Gift from Olaf Schou 1910
Inventory no.:
Part of exhibition:
Livets dans. Samlingen fra antikken til 1950, 2011 - 2019
Edvard Munchs utställning, 1894
Edouard Munch, 1896
Eduard Munch, 1898
Edvard Munch udstilling, 1904
Edvard Munch - Maleriudstilling, 1897
Ausstellung Edvard Munch, 1954
Art nouveau. Art and design at the turn of the century, 1961
100 års norsk kunst, 1963
Edvard Munch, 1965 - 1966
Signale - Manifeste - Proteste im 20. Jahrhundert, 1965
Edvard Munch 1863-1944, 1974
Edvard Munch 1863-1944, 1973
Edvard Munch, 1970
Edvard Munch, 1983 - 1984
Edvard Munch. Symbols & Images, 1978 - 1979
Centenaire de la Société des artistes indépendants, 1984
Munch exhibition, 1982
Munch exhibition, 1981
Edvard Munch, 1895
Edvard Munch, 1905
Edvard Munchs Maleriudstilling, 1901
Fyns Stiftsmuseums Edvard Munch udstilling, 1955
Ausstellung Edvard Munch, 1955
Zeugnisse der Angst in der moderne Kunst, 1963
Edvard Munch og den tsjekkiske kunst, 1971
Edvard Munch, 1970
Munch exhibition, 1982
Edvard Munch. The Frieze of Life, 1992 - 1993
Edvard Munch, 1987
Munch et la France, 1991 - 1992
Edvard Munch - tegninger, skisser og studier, 1973
Edvard Munch, 1895
Edvard Munch und Axel Gallén, 1895
Edvard Munchs udstilling, 1910
Edvard Munchs Udstilling, 1909
Kunstforeningens Edvard Munch udstilling, 1955
Höjdpunkter i norsk konst, 1968
Art nouveau. Art and design at the turn of the century, 1961
[Malerier og grafikk av Edvard Munch], 1982
Munch exhibition, 1981
Edvard Munch. The Frieze of Life, 1993
Edvard Munch, 1987 - 1988
Olaf Schous gaver til Nasjonalgalleriet, 1987 - 1988
Munch 150, 2013
La biennale di Venezia, 1954
Edvard Munch, 1896
Eduard Munch Gemälde-Ausstellung, 1893
Edvard Munch, 1927
Edvard Munch, 1970
Edvard Munch, 1971
Edvard Munch. The Frieze of Life, 1993
Edvard Munch, 1962 - 1963
Sonder-Ausstellung von Edvard Munch, 1900
Fünfte Kunstausstellung der Berliner Secession, 1902
[Edvard Munch], 1903
Edv. Munch-Udstilling, 1900
Art nouveau. Art and design at the turn of the century, 1960
Art nouveau. Art and design at the turn of the century, 1960
Edvard Munch 1863-1944, 1974
The masterworks of Edvard Munch, 1979
[Malerier og grafikk av Edvard Munch], 1982
Cataloguing level:
Single object
Owner and collection:
Nasjonalmuseet for kunst, arkitektur og design, The Fine Art Collections
Høstland, Børre/Børre Høstland

"The Scream" relates to: