Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The Scream

I studied Art History for four years and specialized in Renaissance Art because I related to it, had some inherent understanding of it due to my Catholicism and what I'd been exposed to up until then.
My final year in college, I finally got around to taking the upper level courses of Modern Art, Theory and Criticism and discovered that, had I taken these earlier, they would have likely made me think twice about the choice I'd made. I'd already sunk many semesters, courses, and language requisites into the specialization that I'd chosen, so it was too late to start over.
I think it was the instructor that really did it for me. The right presentation can have a lot to do with how one absorbs information.
There were a number of memorable lectures in her classes:
  • Picasso's Guernica - dramatic and impactful
  • Jeff Koons (in general) - hilarious and accessible
  • Jenny Holzer - fantastic discovery
  • Jackson Pollock - existential moment
  • The Dadaists - we got yelled at
And there was one lecture that was memorable for the overall opus rather than for any one particular work. Edvard Munch's The Scream is iconic and identifiable around the world, and often ripped off in pop cultural references. Though it's his most famous work, it's his lesser knowns which have stayed with me over the years. Dr. K walked us through Munch's progression and his experimentation, noting details in his images that might otherwise go unnoticed or misunderstood. His work was so dark, so desperate, and as we learned about his personal life, we began to sympathize with his path. There were shocking images and some that tested our patience. But the series he did as he watched his sister wither away in bed, dying of tuberculosis, was truly heartbreaking.
The lights went on at the end of day two of the Munch lecture. Not a dry eye in the room.
We'll never know what makes one image more iconic than another. We're arbitrary beings that way.
Today, The Scream set the world record for the most expensive painting sold at an auction. It went for $119,922,500.

1 comment:

  1. I saw an article that said that The Scream is set in front of a hill that housed a mental institution that Munch's sister was in (schizophrenic) and had a slaughterhouse nearby. Plenty of screams to hear, both from people and animals.