'The Scream:' Facts And Stories About Edvard Munch's Iconic Painting

Munch made several versions of his famous painting, including this one in pastels. (Oli Scarff/Getty Images)

Norwegian artist Edvard Munch's most well-known painting, 1893's The Scream, has become a modern emblem of anxiety, but what was Munch really thinking when he painted this striking figure? And what has happened to it since?

What Is The Scream About?

In his diary, Munch recounted strolling along a bridge over a fjord one evening when he broke away from his companions to watch the sunset and had a most unusual vision. He imagined that the sky turned to blood, the fjord turned black, and nature screamed, but only he could hear it. Determined to capture his vision on canvas, the result was The Scream, which was originally titled The Scream Of Nature.

But is there more to it than a bizarre fancy? Art critics have pointed out that the bridge seen in The Scream was a popular suicide bridge located near the asylum where Munch's sister lived after she descended into schizophrenia and Munch himself suffered from depression as well as the fear that mental illness would likewise ruin his life. They believe The Scream may have been a cry for help from an artist entertaining suicidal thoughts.

It's also been thought that Munch was inspired by a mummy, either that of a Chachapoyas warrior discovered near Peru's Utcubamba River who appeared to have died screaming that became a popular attraction or another Peruvian mummy displayed in Florence. It has since come to light that Munch didn't visit Florence until after he painted The Scream, but evidence suggests he might have seen the Chachapoyas warrior when it was displayed in Paris.