Ten Things You Didn't Know About The Scream: The Same Thief Stole a Munch Painting Twice

Edvard Munch's masterpiece, The Scream, is one of the most famous paintings in the world. But what do you really know about the iconic artwork? Test your knowledge here!

  • The new MUNCH museum is situated right by the fjord in Bjørvika, Oslo.

  • The 60-metre-tall building, with its distinctive bend at the top, is clearly visible from the Oslo Fjord and has quickly become one of Europe's most visited art attractions.

  • This magnificent museum is also home to the paintings of one of modernism's most important artists, Edvard Munch. It is, in fact, one of the largest museums in the world dedicated to a single artist.

  • And, of course, it's where you can see the artwork that people from all over the world are keen to experience:

  • The Scream.

Here are ten things you may not know about The Scream

1. The Scream has been stolen twice

The Munch heist is a world-famous and highly dramatic event. In 2004, two of Edvard Munch's most famous paintings, The Scream and Madonna, were stolen from the Munch Museum through an armed robbery committed in broad daylight. At the time, the museum was located in the Tøyen district. Fortunately, the paintings were recovered two years later – in August 2006. Three people were convicted of the brutal robbery.

But The Scream was also stolen once before, from the National Gallery in 1994. The well-known Norwegian footballer Pål Enger set up a ladder, climbed through a window, and simply took one of the world's most valuable paintings. Enger received a seven-year prison sentence for the theft. He hid the painting at home inside his living room table. The art thief takes much of the credit for making The Scream world-famous:

"The painting wasn't behind glass. No one was thinking about The Scream before I stole it. The picture meant a lot to me. It's the symbolism in the image that makes it so bloody fantastic. It may be the world's greatest symbol today," Enger said in 2012.

It's worth mentioning that Enger also stole Munch's painting Vampire back in 1998. While serving his sentence, Enger became an artist himself and held an exhibition after being released. However, in 2015, he was caught again for stealing even more art, including 5 works by Norwegian artist Pushwagner…

2. The value of The Scream

In May 2012, the only privately-owned Scream painting was sold for NOK 689 million. It was sold by the renowned Norwegian shipowner and collector Petter Olsen at Sotheby's in New York. He was very pleased with the sale and told Norwegian broadcaster NRK:

"Munch will continue to play a significant role in my life, and with my own Munch project, I will focus on life and love."

Art collector and multimillionaire Leon Black later admitted to the Munch Museum that he is the new owner of the painting.

Dressed up ghost in black clothes.
  • 3. The Scream inspired the famous Scream films

    It's perhaps not surprising that Munch's The Scream was the inspiration for the mask in the Scream films, the first of which was released in 1996.

  • The mask is strikingly similar. Director Wes Craven has expressed his admiration for the artist and said of the artwork:

  • "It is a classic reference to pure fear."

  • Even the aliens in Doctor Who are said to have been inspired by The Scream.

4. The Scream was not painted in Norway

Since Edvard Munch left behind some notes from 1892 from Ekebergåsen in Oslo, many believed that he painted The Scream there:

"I walked along the road with two friends – the sun set – I felt like a breath of melancholy – The sky suddenly turned blood red – I stopped, leaned against the fence, tired to death – looked out over the flaming clouds like blood and swords over the blue-black fjord and city – My friends walked on – I stood there trembling with anxiety – and felt a great infinite scream through nature."

However, Edvard Munch most likely painted The Scream in Nice, France, in late autumn 1893.

5. You have only 60 minutes in which to see The Scream

On the 4th floor of the MUNCH museum, three versions of The Scream hang in a small, black room - one painting, one drawing, and one print. These are displayed in rotation. Each hour, one of the artworks is unveiled while the other two disappear "behind closed doors". The images cannot be exposed to light all the time, as the light affects the colour pigments, and Edvard Munch's works would have had a much shorter lifespan if they were not protected. It therefore takes some good timing and a bit of luck to get to see your favourite version of The Scream.

  • 6. The real meaning of The Scream

    One of the things people often search for is the meaning of Edvard Munch's most famous painting. Unfortunately, it is difficult to find an answer. The interpretation is a mystery, as the MUNCH Museum itself points out.

  • Is it the figure that is screaming? Is it a real person? Is the person trying to protect themselves from the sound of a scream?

  • Some also believe that Munch most likely found inspiration for The Scream on a path in Ekebergskråningen in Oslo while walking with friends.

  • This is evident from a quote in the artist's own notes. And many naturally think the painting deals with anxiety and jealousy.

  • Another question raised is whether the actual subject is the figures in the background.

  • The MUNCH Museum points out that the subjects may appear unaware of what is happening around them, and that the painting perhaps symbolises the absence of communication.

  • One theory is that Munch wanted to convey that we should stop and lift our gaze. In any case, there is no single answer to what The Scream means.

  • IS that too bad? Or is the idea perhaps that we should make up our own minds?

7. What made The Scream famous

It was the lithograph of The Scream that first became known outside of Norway when it was reproduced in the magazine La Revue Blanche in 1895. The following year, it appeared in the American magazine M'lle and was used as a cover illustration for a book about mental illness in the early 1900s. This, in addition to the fact that the motif has been reproduced in countless variations in popular culture, has brought the artwork to the attention of people worldwide. You can now find The Scream on posters, pencils, films, clothing, and many other types of merchandise.

The thefts described above also made headlines around the world and have played a significant role in the artwork's fame.

8. Not exhibited in Norway for the first time

One might think that Norwegian artist Edvard Munch, born in Løten, would choose his home country to showcase his great works. However, The Scream was first exhibited in Berlin, Germany, in 1893 under the title Despair. Edvard Munch then exhibited a series of paintings that later became known as The Frieze of Life. This series includes images of love's awakening, jealousy, and despair, aka The Scream.

The works have often been shipped around the world to be shown in exhibitions, but the fragile paintings can no longer withstand this. Today, the only opportunity to experience The Scream is in Norway's capital. If you are visiting Oslo, the art-focused Clarion Hotel® Oslo offers central accommodation. Here, you can stay in the middle of the vibrant city life and enjoy the hotel's a world-class art gallery. In fact, it even has its own Munch works. And, of course, you will also be close to the MUNCH Museum.

9. There are multiple versions of The Scream

It is the colourful painting with a strong red, yellow, and blue background that most people think of when they hear The Scream. But there are actually four versions of The Scream. Edvard Munch often created several versions of his artworks, either for customers or to keep for himself. There are four versions of The Scream, two with tempera and oil paint, and two drawings in coloured pencil and pastel.

In addition, there is a black-and-white lithograph that has been printed in many versions.

10. The Scream was painted on cardboard

Several of Munch's works are executed on cardboard or paper, which is a very fragile material. "The four versions of The Scream are painted on cardboard, something not many people know," says paper conservator Cosima Walter, according to MUNCH.

"I wonder why they are all painted on cardboard and not canvas?"

The choice of material is indeed a mystery, and no one has a good answer. Light, temperature, humidity, and oxygen affect the colour pigments in the picture and break down paper and cardboard over time. That is also why The Scream, as mentioned earlier, is protected.

Staying near the National Museum in Oslo? Then you should check into The Thief. The hotel boasts a spa and a gourmet restaurant and is located right by the fjord.

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