lithograph on wove paper
Executed in 1895. A superb, richly inked impression. Woll's variation B with Geschrei printed under the image.
Thence by descent to the present owners
Zürich, Kunsthaus, Zwei Zürcher Sammlungen, 1959, no. 438
Gustav Schiefler, Verzeichnis des graphischen Werks Edvard Munchs bis 1906, Oslo, 1974, no. 32
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
Edvard Munch; Rätsel hinter der Leinwand (exhibition catalogue), Bremen, 2011-12, no.66, another impression illustrated p. 145
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
Elizabeth Prelinger & Michael Parke-Taylor, The Symbolist Prints of Edvard Munch: The Vivian and David Campbell Collection (exhibition catalogue), Toronto, 1997, p. 98
Edvard Munch's The Scream numbers among the most celebrated images in art history. It is one of few masterpieces that require no introduction, as it has been analysed, reproduced, referenced, interpreted and commercialised more often than perhaps any picture bar Leonardo's Mona Lisa. Since its creation in the 1890s The Scream has become a cornerstone of our visual culture, burned onto our collective retina as the definitive image of horror at modernity's core. In one image, Munch initiates the Expressionist gesture which will fuel art history through the twentieth century and beyond.
The earliest known studies relating to The Scream are a series of drawings dating from the early 1890s. These works culminated in the 1892 painting Despair (fig. 2), which depicts the artist leaning against a railing and looking out onto the expanse of nature before him.
Describing his personal experience, Munch wrote the following text to accompany this image: 'I walked with two friends. Then the sun sank. Suddenly the sky turned as red as blood, and I felt a touch of sadness. I stood still, and leant against the railings. Above the bluish-black fjord and above the city the sky was like blood and flames. My friends walked on, and I was left alone, trembling with fear. I felt as if all nature were filled with one mighty unending shriek' (Timm Werner, The Graphic Art of Edvard Munch, London, 1973, p. 69).
In one sketch for Despair, Munch redirects the gaze of his central figure, so rather than contemplating the scene beyond the railing, the head is rotated to look instead at the viewer (fig. 1). From here it is likely that Munch derived the inspiration for his first and most well-known realisation of The Scream, painted in 1893 (fig. 3). Here, the increasingly confrontational central figure elicits a more immediate and expressive reaction from its audience than its predecessor. 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 Scream, and in 1895, the artist executed the motif as a monochromatic lithograph. 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), op. cit., p. 50).
It was typical of Munch’s practice to investigate a recurring image in both painted and printed media, usually to divergent yet equally potent ends. In this graphic interpretation, the artist succinctly recaptures the emotional impact of his colourful, painted works. Indeed here, the uniformity in colour gives the image a cohesive, even iconic quality, which is further enhanced by the single word 'Geschrei' ('Scream'), printed in the lower centre of the sheet below the composition. In comparing the 1893 painting and the 1895 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).
Despair, circa 1892
pen and ink on paper, Munch-Museet, Oslo
oil on canvas, Thielska Galleriet, Stockholm
The Scream, 1893
tempera and crayon on board, The National Museum of Art, Architecture, and Design/National Gallery, Oslo
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