The Scream
December 9, 2003 5:08 PM   Subscribe

Why was the sky red in Munch's "The Scream"? I would have said "red paint."
posted by etc. (12 comments total)
People say this kind of thing a lot. I remember reading something about how Starry Night was based on a certain arrangement of stars on a particular evening. It's interesting if true, but I think it misses the point, since knowing these things don't really help understand the paintings any more than, say, knowing where the guy in The Scream bought his jacket. While the red sky may be important, and the stars important, the scientific reasons why they were that way seems irrelevant to me.

Good excuse to get grant money though.
posted by Hildago at 5:38 PM on December 9, 2003

Wasn't that painting stolen? Was it ever recovered?
posted by Eekacat at 5:44 PM on December 9, 2003

Oh hey cool... I had that professor in college.... Back when Texas State University was called Southwest Texas State.... like 3 years ago.
posted by Espoo2 at 6:50 PM on December 9, 2003

i keep hearing these scientific reasons for why paintings look like this or that. look, a red sky is intense and adds emotion. next we'll hear of a study explaining that people back in the heyday of cubism actually did have an anatomy of sharp edges and flat surfaces, or that pointilism simply reflects how the human eye used to work in the late 19th century.
posted by edlundart at 7:05 PM on December 9, 2003

if you play certain a beatle album backwards it claims paul is dead.
posted by quonsar at 7:06 PM on December 9, 2003

This story struck me as pretty silly. No matter how they try to spin it, the first evidence for the painting is a decade after the event that's supposed to explain it. I think "vivid sunset" + "slightly crazed artist" is a sufficient explanation.

Or, what quonsar said.
posted by languagehat at 7:38 PM on December 9, 2003

Yes, but has that jacket sold on ebay yet? [sorry] LOL. Good quip, Hidago.

I still think it's an interesting fact and doesn't detract from the painting or artist one iota. It could have been inspirational for all we know. In the end, the painting [or any] has whatever meaning the observer feels. As long as you're feeling something.
posted by alicesshoe at 7:46 PM on December 9, 2003

Silly astronomy professor. And what hildago said. And Quonsar for that matter.
posted by dejah420 at 8:20 PM on December 9, 2003

Eekacat, it was stolen and recovered unharmed.
posted by teg at 8:41 PM on December 9, 2003

And under the paint, right at the top, barely visible, it says, "only a mad man could have painted this."
posted by Blue Stone at 5:34 AM on December 10, 2003

Blue Stone's point is pretty close to the actuality of the situation. Munch was, to say the least, a bit off.

I had an Art History professor in college who as a child lived in the same village as Munch. He'd often make clandestine trips to Munch's studio just to watch the odd goings on -- peering through the studio window and hoping not to be noticed. It was widely known in that small town that Munch was an extreme misogynist, and had lost most of his grip on reality. I'm fairly sure he was never diagnosed as psychotic (in the contemporary sense), but I'd venture to guess that this was in fact the case. The red sky in The Scream is likely to be as much a symptom of Munch's feelings about the world at the time he painted it as some remote volcanic metrological condition, in my humble opinion.

I don't know how concurrent Professor Dittmann's story is with Munch's execution of The Scream, but it makes for an interesting conversation piece.
posted by ScottUltra at 7:33 AM on December 10, 2003

My art history professor had a Munch story too. He said that Munch would frequently toss his oil paintings out on the lawn before winter and let the snow cover them, leaving them there until spring thaw. I guess he wanted to see what the effect was like, or maybe it was a mystical way of divining which paintings were worthy enough to keep. I have no idea if this is true, but you know, looking at his paintings...
posted by picea at 10:15 AM on December 10, 2003

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