Little Bits of History

120 Million

Posted in History by patriciahysell on May 2, 2015
The Scream, pastel version

The Scream, pastel version

May 2, 2012: Leon Black purchases a painting. Edvard Munch painted four different versions of his famous painting, The Scream. The pastel version was made using colors found in stick form and containing pure powdered pigment and a binder. Munch made both paintings and pastels of his work between 1893 and 1910. He called them Der Schrei der Natur or The Scream of Nature. The National Gallery, Oslo holds one of the two painted versions – the one of 1893. The Munch Museum has the other painted version done in 1910. It also has one of the pastel versions, done in 1893. The other pastel was done in 1895 and it was the only one in which Munch hand painted a poem commemorating his inspiration for creating the work of art onto the frame.

Munch had been walking at dusk and was feeling saddened when he noticed the deep red sky and felt that nature was also wounded and shrieking in agony. There are some theories as to why the sky looked as it did including an effect from the eruption of Krakatau which turned the skies in the Western hemisphere a deep red in 1883 and 1884. This was about a decade before Munch painted The Scream and some historians disagree with using it as the creative influence. They believe that Munch, an expressive painter, was not interested in literal meanings but the essence behind the image. The area he was painting was also close to both a slaughterhouse and a lunatic asylum and either could have added their plaintive underpinnings to the painter’s imagination.

The Scream has been stolen a number of times. In 1994, two men broke into the National Gallery, Oslo and stole their version of the painting. They left behind a note reading, “Thanks for the poor security.” There was a ransom demanded and the gallery refused to pay. The Norwegian police set up a sting operation and the painting was recovered in May. In January 1996, four men were convicted in connection with the theft. One of those convicted had previously been found guilty of stealing Munch’s Vampire in 1988. The 1910 tempura on board version was stolen in 2004 along with Munch’s Madonna. Both were recovered two years later.

Norwegian businessman Petter Olsen sold the 1985 pastel on board version. Sotheby’s auction was held on this date and bidding started at $40 million. It lasted for over 12 minutes before Black won the painting with a bid of $119,922,500, including the buyer’s premium. This is an added percentage paid by the buyer to cover administrative costs. This version is said to be the most colorful and vibrant of the four. This was the most expensive painting sold at auction having exceeded the price paid for a Picasso sold two years earlier (not accounting for inflation). If inflation is taken into account, Van Gogh’s Portrait of Dr. Gachet wins for highest price. After buying The Scream, it was displayed at the Museum of Modern Art in New York from October 2012 to April 2013.

One evening I was walking along a path, the city was on one side and the fjord below. I felt tired and ill. I stopped and looked out over the fjord – the sun was setting, and the clouds turning blood red. I sensed a scream passing through nature; it seemed to me that I heard the scream. I painted this picture, painted the clouds as actual blood. The color shrieked. This became The Scream. – from Edvard Munch’s diary

After all his literary efforts had come to nought and he had to wear dark glasses, he became an art critic.

For as long as I can remember I have suffered from a deep feeling of anxiety which I have tried to express in my art. Without anxiety and illness I should have been like a ship without a rudder.

Nature is not only what is visible to the eye — it also shows the inner images of the soul — the images on the back side of the eyes. – all from Edvard Munch

Also on this day: “I’m Thinking” – In 1932 Jack Benny’s radio program premieres.
High Infidelity – In 1230, William de Braose was put to death after an affair with the royal wife.
Approved – In 1885, Good Housekeeping went on sale.
Battle of Alcatraz – In 1946, the battle began.
Queen Elizabeth 2 – In 1969, the cruise ship took to the waters on her maiden voyage.

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