lithograph on wove paper
Executed in 1895. A superb, richly inked impression of this important subject. Woll's variation A with Geschrei printed under the image and the full text in the lower margin.
Christian Schou, Norway (brother of the above; by descent from the above)
Thence by descent to the present owners
Edvard Munch: Master Printmaker (exhibition catalogue), Harvard University Art Museums, Cambridge, 1983, pl. 23, another impression illustrated p. 40
Edvard Munch: Master Prints from the Epstein Family Collection (exhibition catalogue), National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1990, another impression illustrated p. 73
The Symbolist Prints of Edvard Munch: The Vivian and David Campbell Collection (exhibition catalogue), Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, 1997, no. 15, another impression illustrated p. 97
Edvard Munch: 50 Graphic Works from the Gundersen Collection (exhibition catalogue), Bergen Art Museum, Bergen, 2010, no. 2, another impression illustrated p. 49
Gerd Woll, Edvard Munch: The Complete Graphic Works, Oslo, 2012, no. 38, another impression illustrated p. 64
Edvard Munch: A Genius of Printmaking (exhibition catalogue), Kunsthaus, Zurich, 2013-14, no. 130, another impression illustrated p. 178
Edvard Munch: Love, Death, Loneliness (exhibition catalogue), Albertina, Vienna, 2015-16, no. 99, another impression illustrated p. 181
Thomas Messer, Munch, New York, 1970, p. 84
Edvard Munch created his lithograph The Scream in 1895. This graphic interpretation is one of several iterations of what has become a momentous subject; a composition first conceived in tempera and crayon in 1893 (fig. 1). Gerd Woll describes this painting as follows: ‘The Scream is not only Munch’s most famous painting today but it is also perhaps the most famous visual motif in the entire history of European art.’ (G. Woll, Edvard Munch: A Genius of Printmaking, Zurich, 2013, p. 177)
Between 1893 and 1910 Munch created three additional coloured renditions of the image. It was typical of Munch’s practice to investigate a recurring motif in both painted and printed media, usually to divergent yet equally potent ends. In comparing the 1893 painting and the lithograph of the subject, Elizabeth Prelinger and Michael Parke-Taylor explain: ‘The painting of The Scream depends largely for its psychological effects on Munch’s use of expressive Symbolist color... [Comparatively] in the lithograph Munch transformed all those powerful hues into simple black and white contrasts. It is an extraordinary achievement. Here, sinuous lines, stark oppositions of value, and ingenious play of figure and void combine in an image that, like Munch’s other graphic restatements of his painted motifs, is not a mere translation from one medium to another but is a reformulation of a theme into another visual language that carries its own syntax and meanings’ (E. Prelinger & M. Parke-Taylor, The Symbolist Prints of Edvard Munch: The Vivian and David Campbell Collection (exhibition catalogue), op. cit., p. 98).
While Munch’s creation of The Scream lithograph would have been motivated, at least in part, by a desire to disseminate his painted image more widely, no formal edition of the print was ever published. Furthermore, Ina Johannesen explains that after creating his lithographic image, Munch left the stone with his printer in Berlin. Before the artist’s return, the stone had been ground down. Any further impressions were thus impossible, meaning that ‘only a small number of the lithographs exist’ (I. Johannesen, Edvard Munch: 50 Graphic works from the Gundersen Collection (exhibition catalogue), Oslo, 2010, p. 50).
There are even fewer impressions of the particular variation of the print that is offered here. Munch produced three adaptations of this subject: in some impressions the image alone is printed, others include the title 'Geschrei' ('Scream'), while in impressions such as this a German inscription at the bottom right of the lithograph reads: ‘Ich fühlte das grosse Geschrei durch die Natur’ (‘I felt the great scream throughout nature’). Concisely, this inscription recalls Munch’s experience at Ekeberg in the hills above Kristiania (fig. 3): a moment of anguished epiphany that inspired the artist’s first explorations of this composition, and which he captured in a prose-poem of 1892:
‘I walked along the road with two friends. The sun went down—the sky was blood red—and I felt a breath of sadness—I stood still tired unto death—over the blue-black fjord and city lay blood and tongues of fire. My friends continued on—I remained—trembling from fear. I felt the great infinite scream through nature’ (quoted in E. Prelinger, Edvard Munch: Master Printmaker (exhibition catalogue), op. cit., p. 39).
That The Scream lithograph comprises an abridged version of this poem is made more meaningful when one considers an unrealised ambition of Munch’s. As Johannesen describes: ‘For several years, Munch wanted to publish a selection of graphic works in a booklet, The Mirror, with accompanying texts as prose-poems, with the contents of the soul’ (I. Johannesen, op. cit., 50). This project was never fulfilled, however, and this subject is Munch’s only printed work to have been produced with any linguistic augmentation.
This impression of The Scream comes originally from the collection of Olaf Schou (1861-1925), the Norwegian industrialist and art patron (fig. 2). An artist himself who studied under the Romanticist painter Hans Gude in Berlin, Schou was passionate about supporting contemporary art, and he used his fortune unreservedly to do so.
Schou was particularly taken with Munch’s work, and beginning in the 1880s he provided him with financial support whilst purchasing his works regularly at exhibitions. The relationship between artist and patron was one of mutual respect, and over time Munch began reserving some of his most important works for his ardent and long-time proponent, including the 1893 painting of The Scream (fig. 1).
During this period Schou also shared a strong relationship with Jens Thiis (1870-1942), the Director of the National Gallery in Oslo from 1908-41. In 1909 Schou donated 116 works by Munch, of Thiis’ choosing, to the National Gallery. This generous endowment comprised Munch’s major paintings Madonna (1894–95), The Girls on the Pier (circa 1901) and the 1896 realisation of The Sick Child, which Schou commissioned. The following year, the patron presented the museum with his most invaluable gift: the 1893 version of The Scream (fig. 1), which he had purchased earlier that year (Sue Prideaux, Edvard Munch: Behind the Scream, New Haven & London, 2005, p. 269).
Schou acquired the present lithograph from Munch around 1900. The work was subsequently inherited by Olaf’s brother, Christian Schou, and thence by descent it has come into the collection of the present owners. Such a distinguished history makes the appearance of this rare and important work on the market all the more significant.
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