Infrared scans showed that it was the painter Edvard Munch himself who wrote the mysterious inscription in the famous Scream painting.
A sentence in one of the world’s most recognizable paintings, written in small and difficult to choose writing, brought along many assumptions in the art world.
In the upper left corner of the picture is written “Can only be drawn by a madman” in pencil.
Tests by the Norwegian National Museum determined that it was Munch himself who wrote the article.
First displayed in 1893 in Oslo, Munch’s hometown, then known as Kristiania, the work became a universal expression of anxiety. The effects of the picture are seen from the 90s Hollywood horror series Scream to modern day emojis.
Art critics have long questioned whether it was written by an angry person or Munch himself, who had psychiatric problems throughout his life.
The museum compared Munch’s handwriting in his diaries and letters to the writing in the painting, using a new technology, and concluded that the writing belongs to the painter himself.
The work has been overhauled to be displayed in a new museum to be opened next year in Oslo.
“There is no doubt that the writing belongs to Munch himself. What happened in 1895, when both the cat of the handwriting and the painting of Munch showed it in Norway, always point to the same result,” said Mai Britt Guleng, the museum’s curator.
In 1994, the Scream painting was stolen from a museum in Norway and re-found in a secret operation by British detectives.
When the work was first seen, it received intense criticism and sparked controversy over Munch’s mental health.
According to his diaries, Munch was very upset by these discussions and it is believed that he wrote the article after these reactions.
Both Munch’s father and sister experienced depression, and the painter was hospitalized after a nervous breakdown in 1908.
Munch’s mother and older sister died before the painter turned 14. While his father died 12 years later, another brother was admitted to a mental hospital.
Munch wrote, “I have had deep anxiety for as long as I can remember and tried to express it in my art. Without this anxiety and illness, I would be like a ship without rudder.”
The Scream, along with some of Munch’s other works, will be on display at the Norwegian National Museum from 2022.
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