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Mysterious message on “The Scream” was written by Edvard Munch himself, consultants reveal

Barely seen within the high left-hand nook of one of many world’s most well-known work are the phrases, “May solely have been painted by a madman!” For years, curators and artwork historians have questioned who wrote it.

After many years of debate, consultants confirmed this week that the artist himself, Edvard Munch, is accountable for the inscription on his most well-known work, “The Scream.” 

In keeping with The Nationwide Museum of Norway, a Danish artwork critic first seen the inscription throughout an exhibition in Copenhagen in 1904 — pondering {that a} member of the general public had written it as an act of vandalism. 

New infrared scans, which do not influence the portray, have proven that Munch left the tiny sentence on the nook of the portray, written in pencil after the work was already full. The museum analyzed the handwriting and in contrast it to Munch’s diaries and letters from the time.  

“The writing is certainly Munch’s personal,” stated Mai Britt Guleng, curator on the Nationwide Museum. “The handwriting itself, in addition to occasions that occurred in 1895, when Munch confirmed the portray in Norway for the primary time, all level in the identical path.”

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Infrared images on the Nationwide Museum of Norway.

Annar Bjorgli/The Nationwide Museum


The museum confirmed the inscription’s origins whereas the portray is present process in depth conservation in preparation for its set up in Oslo, Munch’s dwelling metropolis, subsequent 12 months.  

“The writing has all the time been seen to the bare eye, however it’s been very troublesome to interpret,” stated Thierry Ford, work conservator on the Nationwide Museum. “By a microscope, you possibly can see that the pencil traces are bodily on high of the paint and have been utilized after the portray was completed.” 

After “The Scream” debuted in 1895, Munch obtained sharp criticism, together with from the artwork neighborhood, and a medical scholar, Johan Scharffenberg, who questioned his psychological state throughout a debate at which Munch was current. 

Henrik Grosch, then director of the Norwegian Museum of Ornamental Arts and Design, wrote that Munch’s work confirmed that one can not “contemplate Munch a severe man with a standard mind.”

For years, Munch referred to the feedback in his notes, clearly deeply harm by the judgements. 

“The idea is that Munch wrote this after listening to Scharffenberg’s judgment on his psychological well being, someday in or after 1895,” stated Guleng of the inscription. “It’s cheap to imagine that he did it fairly quickly after, both throughout or following the exhibition.”

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An infrared photograph of Munch’s inscription on “The Scream.” 

Nasjonalmuseet / Børre Høstland


The Expressionist portray is now extensively celebrated in trendy instances, thought of a permanent illustration of hysteria and anguish. In his diary, Munch wrote that the portray was impressed by “a gust of melancholy.”

Each Munch’s father and grandfather suffered from melancholy, and his sister was admitted to the Gaustad Psychiatric Hospital. Munch was hospitalized after a nervous breakdown in 1908.

“The inscription might be learn as an ironic remark, however similtaneously an expression of the artist’s vulnerability,” stated Guleng. “Writing on the completed portray exhibits that creating for Munch was a steady course of.” 

The portray, which is considered one of 4, has hardly ever been seen because it was briefly stolen almost 20 years in the past. In 2021, a pastel model bought for almost $120 million throughout a Sotheby’s public sale in New York — a world document on the time. 

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