Munch’s ‘The Scream’, an iconic expression of despair, grief and anxiety has now become the most expensive artwork ever sold at auction.
Munch’s life was mapped by the grief he experienced at age 5, when his mother died. His sister also died of tuberculosis and Munch himself experienced sickness as a child. He said: ‘The angels of fear, sorrow, and death stood by my side since the day I was born’
His diary entry, widely associated with ‘The Scream’ says much about his inner state at the time and might be familiar to anyone who has ever suffered a panic attack:
“I was walking along the road with two friends. The sun was setting. I felt a breath of melancholy – Suddenly the sky turned blood-red.
I stopped, and leaned against the railing, deathly tired – Looking out across the flaming clouds that hung like blood and a sword over the blue-black fjord and town. My friends walked on – I stood there, trembling with fear. And I sensed a great, infinite scream pass through nature.” (Munch, 1892)
The vibrancy and courage of his expression is not only a vital example of early expressionist art, but also a live inquiry of creativity as a threshold for expressing deeper truth.
I often encourage drawing and creative expression in my work especially with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder because it offers a deep resource from which to process emotions safely, which is so integral to the work.
Recent Art Therapy Research with traumatised soldiers shows that creative expression is helpful in alleviating the symptoms of psychological trauma. So it seems that Munch was connecting with his deeper mind/body wisdom to externalise his inner world.