Edvard Munch’s The Scream, a symbol of human anguish and one of the world’s most recognizable paintings, is going on display again almost four years after being stolen…
Despite undergoing extensive and painstaking restoration work, the masterpiece, recovered in 2006, is still marred by some permanent damage, particularly in the form of a large moisture stain which has discoloured its bottom left-hand corner.
It was stolen during a daytime armed raid at a museum in Norway’s capital Oslo.
“It was not possible (to restore the stain) well enough and in an acceptable manner with the means and the technology that are currently available,” Oslo Municipality’s director for cultural affairs Gro Balas told a press conference on Wednesday, two days before the official opening of the “Scream and Madonna revisited” exhibit.
We might be able to use new techniques if and when they become available, but for the time being, this painting is scarred,” she said, adding that the visual enjoyment of the masterpiece had not been diminished by the discolouring.
Based on extensive research carried out in connection with its restoration, the Scream is now believed to have been painted 17 years later than previously thought – in 1910 rather than 1893.
Munch Museum chief curator Ingebjorg Ydstie said the new date – which will be followed by a question mark – had been established after a comparative analysis of Munch’s painting technique and use of colour in the two painted versions of the Scream, one of which, signed and dated by the painter himself in 1893, is on display at the National Gallery in Oslo.
Ms Ydstie added that the new date was not set in stone, and might be rediscussed at some point in the future.
A second masterpiece, the Madonna, which had suffered more obvious damage in the form of several tears as a consequence of the 2004 heist, is back on display, too.
The somewhat eerie portrait of a sensual, dark-haired nude woman was painted on canvas, meaning that all retouching work is reversible. The Scream, on the contrary, was painted on cardboard, a much more fragile support that runs the risk of being further damaged in a permanent way.
The Madonna is going to undergo further retouching once the exhibition is over.
“I cried tears of joy when the paintings were recovered, but today I’m only smiling”, Ms Balas told the media.
She added that security measures at the museum had been enhanced to the highest possible degree, and that every precaution had been taken to prevent any future criminal action.
Edvard Munch himself described the overwhelming experience which inspired him to paint the Scream in a page of his diary.
“I was walking along a path with two friends—the sun was setting—suddenly the sky turned blood red—I paused, feeling exhausted, and leaned on the fence—there was blood and tongues of fire above the blue-black fjord and the city—my friends walked on, and I stood there trembling with anxiety—and I sensed an infinite scream passing through nature.”
Edvard Munch, born in 1863, is a precursor of Expressionism and the most famous Norwegian painter. His early works were influenced by the deep loss caused by the early death of his mother and an elder sister, both of whom suffered from tuberculosis. Illness and death remained a Leit-motiv throughout his life.
Both the Scream and the Madonna are part of a series of paintings called Frieze of Life in which Munch analyzed the most crucial aspects of human existence: love, fear and death.