May 9, 2012
The eyes and ears of the world were on Sotheby’s New York late in the evening of May 2nd. There at the famous auction house, the 1895 version of Edvard Munch’s painting, “The Scream” was purchased by an unnamed buyer for almost $120 million dollars. It was “The Scream Heard ‘Round the World, quipped the Huffington Post” (Patricia Berman, May 4, 2012).
Modern Art and German Expressionism
Around the turn of the twentieth century, when Europe was experiencing great unrest, artists expressed political and social tension in works permeated with gloom, foreboding, and fright. According to R. Kevin Seasoltz, “much twentieth-century contemporary abstract art was pessimistic, turned in on itself, reflecting cultures that were often deeply disturbed and disturbing” (Kevin Seasoltz, A Sense of the Sacred, 315). Instead of depicting recognizable content–nature, animal and human depictions, modern art appeals to color, line, and shape to express interior states of subjective experience with little or no appeal to the senses. Some modern art forms express the meaninglessness of life.
The forerunner of German Expressionism, the Norwegian painter Edvard Munch (d 1944) developed a morbid pietism bordering on insanity due to negative family influences. His temperament emerges with horrifying force in “The Scream,” from which the lonely, tortured, and despairing cry of the main figure reverberates visibly throughout the space of the painting. “The Scream” transcends the autobiographical and explores contemporary man’s sickness of soul.