Edvard Munch // Mysterious graffiti on his painting of ‘The Scream’

Edvard Munch // Mysterious graffiti on his painting of ‘The Scream’

By noisyhype team, March 28, 2021

Artist Edvard Munch wrote mysterious graffiti on his painting of The Scream, infrared scans have shown.

A small and barely visible sentence written on one of the world’s most well-known paintings has been the cause of much conjecture in the art world.

The words, “Can only have been painted by a madman”, are inscribed in pencil in the top left-hand corner.

According to BBC, the original painting, first displayed in Munch’s home city Oslo (then Kristiania) in 1893, has become a radical and timeless expression of human anxiety. Its influence stretches as far as the 90s Hollywood Scream horror film series, and on to the modern-day emoji.

No one seems to have noticed the penciled-in sentence until a decade later, when a Danish art critic posited that it was probably written by a vandal’s “tactless hand.” Curator Gerd Woll bolstered the theory in 2008 when she suggested that the inscription did not come from the artist.

Mai Britt Guleng, a Munch specialist and curator at the museum, began investigating the inscription, first discovered in 1904, and after consulting with colleagues deduced it was the work of the master.

Curators used an infrared camera to snap photos of the painting, which gave them a better view of the inscription. Then they compared the sample to thousands of pages of Munch’s notes and letters.

The handwriting was a match. The vandal was the painter himself.

Guleng believes the markings also show Munch was always willing to experiment with his work and in particular with the surfaces of his paintings.

“I think it tells us a lot about experimental attitude to making works of art, because he could have said he didn’t want to harm it, but all his life he wanted to experiment with the surface,” she said.

The artwork has undergone conservation in preparation for its installment in the new museum, which is due to open in the Norwegian capital next year.