Talk about fine art. Very fine art.
The Scream will be sold by Sotheby's expected to fetch $80 million at auction on May 2, as announced by the auction house today (Tuesday, February 21, 2012).
Edvard Munch initially came up with four versions of The Scream back in the late 1880s during one of his so-called "insane" periods. One, done in tempera and crayon on board, hangs in the National Gallery of Norway while his pastel version is a part of Oslo's Munch Museum's permanent collection.
As for the proliferation of this painting, which was originally called Der Schrei der Natur (The Scream of Nature), Munch came up with a lithograph of The Scream in 1895, thus putting this iconic work into the hands of many admirers who would not have even seen the piece if not for this process.
That said, the fourth version of The Scream is done in tempera and oil on board. Called by Sotheby's as "the most colorful and vibrant" of this creation, this is "the only version whose original frame was hand-painted by the artist to include his poem detailing the work's inspiration; and the only version in which one of the two figures in the background turns to look outward onto the cityscape."
The auction house comments that this particular piece was never on public view in either the US or in the UK except for a brief time when the work hung in the National Gallery in Washington D.C.
Instead, this coveted painting has been owned by the Olsen family, a ship-owning dynasty, for nearly a quarter of a century.
By way of background, The Scream has been stolen more than once. The National Gallery's work was taken in 1994 by four men only to be recovered later that year while in 2004, both this Munch painting and Madonna were taken by masked men toting guns from the Munch Museum in broad daylight. The two pieces of art were returned in 2006 after a covert Norwegian police operation was pulled off.
Meanwhile, in pop culture, The Scream has been inspiration in various ways. including in a series by Adam Warhol, in the political campaign of George W. Bush in which the caption read "President Quale," in a parody by The Simpsons, in an M&M's commercial, and in a number of products (including a striking umbrella) carryon this memorable image that came courtesy Edvard Munch.
And so what was Edvard Munch's inspiration for this particular painting that has caused such international attention?
He said in a diary entry in 1892 while writing from Nice, France, "I was walking along a path with two friends – the sun was setting – suddenly the sky turned blood red – I paused, feeling exhausted, and leaned on the fence – there was blood and tongues of fire above the blue-black fjord and the city – my friends walked on, and I stood there trembling with anxiety – and I sensed an infinite scream passing through nature."
That established and created, Sotheby's now calls this particular painting owned by Norway's Olsen clan "one of the most instantly recognizable images in art and popular culture, second only perhaps to Da Vinci's 'Mona Lisa'"
That's quite a statement and quite an honor. And now Edvard Munch's The Scream will be on the auction block, expecting to bring in $80 million dollars. Will you be bidding?