Screaming People!

A few days after “The Scream” arrived at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in NYC, I ran uptown to the museum. I enjoy Edvard Munch and his moody, gloomy depictions of figures in disturbing landscapes. But when I got there, my focus changed to the crowd drawn to the color version of Munch’s iconic image.

It was a bit scary!

As usual MoMA attracts an international crowd of art lovers and tourists. Those two groups are not mutually exclusive — art-loving visitors to New York exist just as art-loving tourists go to Rome, Berlin, Paris…. I’m going to be an art-loving tourist in Florence next week, so I’ll do my share of tromping through museums.

Judging from the number of people crowded around “The Scream” (snapping photos with their phones and jostling for a closer vantage point) it was the absolute star of the show. I know that for many people it’s the single image that comes to mind when they hear the name Munch and for others it’s connected to Macaulay Culkin as a child star. To me, it’s just the most popular of many intriguing creations from Munch’s imagination.

While the “paparazzi” were focused on the superstar, I had time to visit the rest of Munch’s cast of characters. I felt a little lonely as I strolled around the room to see some of Munch’s other notable works. “Angst,” “The Vampire,” “The Lonely Ones,” and “The Storm” have always spoken to me with a more powerful voice than the almost cartoonish “Scream.” Don’t get me wrong “The Scream” is iconic for a reason. It’s compelling and raw. It draws people to its painful protagonist, but that’s where it stops — for me. The story ends abruptly, while “The Storm” and many of his other woodcuts, paintings and prints, suggest entire stories to the viewer — stories that change and grow each time I see them.

“The Scream” just screams. Still the crowd seemed to love it. And getting lost in that mindless mass of humanity would have made me let out a howl. Did I scream? No, of course not. I snuck a peak at the famous, tortured screamer, wriggled out of the crowd and spent my time with “The Lonely Ones,” “The Vampire” and the others because I like my scary images —and scary stories— to offer complex messages and not always at the top of their lungs.


  1. Metan

    An art loving tourist in Florence next week? You lucky thing! Have a great time 🙂

    I love The Scream, partially because it is a pose I assume many times a week due to my terrible internet service losing a blog post!

    • Candy

      I think that’s the face I get when ANYTHING technical goes blinky!

      I guess we all relate to the intensity of The Scream, but honestly Munch captured some other emotional messages that I find more compelling. If you get a chance to see a big show of his work — grab it. Of course there’s this oddly sunny period later in his life when he actually painted happiness in happy colors. He no doubt experienced a life changer of some kind, but the paintings make it look like he discovered anti-depressants. Strange but true.

      • It’s fascinating how we can follow the course of an artist’s life by noting the changes in subject matter and style. I’m glad to hear that Munch showed signs of experiencing relief from his emotional turmoil. I’m intrigued by the transition from Impressionism to Expressionism and what was happening on an international level to influence those movements and vice versa.

        • Candy

          I spent a lot of time at a retrospective of his work and his emotional journey was evident. Great works of art, too!

  2. I can’t wait to see “The Scream” when I do NYC this week. I’m glad I read your post beforehand, because now I’m more likely to tune into his other pieces as well. I once wrote a poem based on “The Scream.” It’s a fun painting to use for creative writing activities with students. BTW, enjoy Florence!

    • Candy

      You will definitely enjoy the Munch show — give the other images a chance to sink into your imagination and you won’t be disappointed. I think The Storm and The Lonely Ones are particularly good starts for stories. Have fun at MoMA and in NYC!