Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Softening The Cry

Edvard Munch's only famous painting isn't known as "The Shriek" or "The Cry", and not because the Norwegian word "skrik" is difficult to translate - "The Shriek" would make an excellent alternate title; "The Cry" less so, but only because "cry" could imply sentimental tears, which is certainly not what is happening here.

Munch called the four versions of this work that he made between 1893 and 1910, and which he regarded as a series rather than separate attempts at the same study, "Der Schrei der Natur" - "The Scream of Nature", which may suggest that the woman in the foreground is merely one facet of a larger eruption. 

Two were painted in tempera on cardboard, one in pastel on cardboard, and one in crayon on cardboard, while about fifty prints were made from Munch's lithograph before his printer wilfully and deliberately erased the stone - the value of a valuable print increases according to its rarity. You can see all four versions, with some commentary on the differences between them, by clicking here.

For myself, I always found the shriek too loud, the cry too piercing, the scream too painful, and felt the need to soften it, though my version also enhances the background, making the cliff more ominously obvious and adding a touch of Nature to the lake; the two bourgeois Sunday-strollers-on-the-promenade are also totally unaffected by, indeed oblivious to, the chaotic entropy that is taking place around them, which seemed to me an entirely appropriate if satirical additional comment. 

Now that I have had the chance to spend many weeks studying the originals in order to make my version, I am left wondering whether the hallucinogenic swirls were not an outcome of laudanum rather than the metaphorical expression of the anguish of the psyche, or both, if you have seen the movie "Love and Mercy" and witnessed Brian Wilson of The Beach Boys doing much the same as Roger Waters on Pink Floyd's "Dark Side of the Moon", and Coleridge, unquestionably, while writing "Kubla Khan".

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