Beneath a boiling sky, aflame with yellow, orange and red, an androgynous figure stands upon a bridge. Wearing a sinuous blue coat, which appears to flow, surreally, into a torrent of aqua, indigo and ultramarine behind him, he holds up two elongated hands on either side of his hairless, skull-like head.
His eyes wide with shock, he unleashes a bloodcurdling shriek. Despite distant vestiges of normality – two figures upon the bridge, a boat on the fjord – everything is suffused with a sense of primal, overwhelming horror.
This, of course, is The Scream, by the Norwegian artist Edvard Munch – the second most famous image in art history, after Leonardo’s Mona Lisa.
Or, to be precise, it is one of four versions of The Scream that Munch created in his lifetime. The earliest painted version, from 1893, is in Oslo’s National Gallery. Elsewhere in the city, the Munch Museum boasts the other painted version, from 1910, as well as a rendition in pastel from 1893.
But the version I am describing, a pastel-on-board from 1895, still in its original frame, is the only one of the four that remains in private hands. In 2012, it briefly set the record for the most expensive artwork ever to sell at auction, when, after 12 minutes of bidding, it fetched almost $120 million (£75 million) at Sotheby’s in New York. The buyer was the American financier Leon Black, who has now lent the work to a new exhibition, Munch and Expressionism, at the Neue Galerie in New York.
但我现在描述的这个板上粉彩版创作于1895年，至今仍然使用最初的画框，这也是4个版本中唯一被私人收藏的。2012年，它曾经短暂保持过艺术作品拍卖成交价格最高纪录。当时，经过12分钟的竞拍后，它最终在纽约苏富比拍卖行以将近1.2亿美元(7,500万英镑)的天价成交。买家是美国金融家利昂·布莱克(Leon Black)，他现在将这幅作品租借给纽约新美术馆(Neue Galerie)的“蒙克与表现主义展”(Munch and Expressionism)进行展出。
“The most prized version is the oil painting in the National Gallery in Oslo,” says the art historian Jill Lloyd, who has curated the exhibition. “But the pastel version is incredible, because the colour is so vivid, so fresh, it’s like it was made yesterday. In my mind, it is the most intense version: because pastel is such a free medium, you can see Munch altering lines and changing contours. So it has this unbelievably charged, vital surface, which you don’t really get in the oil paintings in the same way.”
The exhibition at the Neue Galerie explores the relationship between Munch, who was born the second of five children to an impoverished military doctor in 1863, and the avant-garde Expressionist art movement that emerged in Germany and Austria in the early years of the 20th Century. Although the show concentrates on the latter stages of the artist’s career (Munch died in 1944), it still finds room for The Scream of 1895, which he created three years after first arriving in Berlin, where he quickly made a notorious name for himself.
It was in Germany, during several creatively frenzied years, while fraternising with like-minded artists and writers, such as his close friend August Strindberg, at a bar called the Black Piglet, that Munch created the major paintings which remain his best-known works, including The Vampire and Madonna. They were conceived for his epic, semi-autobiographical series The Frieze of Life, which transmuted his own high-keyed emotions concerning love, sexuality and death into universal symbols. The original, 1893 version of The Scream was one of 22 elements in the cycle.
在德国的几年间，蒙克的创作激情得到了充分激发，他当时在一家名叫“黑猪”(Black Piglet)的酒吧与志趣相投的画家和作家建立了深厚的友谊，包括他的好友奥古斯特·斯特林堡(August Strindberg)。正是在那段时期，蒙克创作了至今享誉世界的重要作品，包括《吸血鬼》(The Vampire)和《麦当娜》(Madonna)。这都是在为他后来那部半交响乐式的宏伟巨著《生命的饰带》(The Frieze of Life)做铺垫。这个系列的作品将他自己对爱情、性和死亡等问题的高亢情感转化成通用的符号。1893年创作的第一版《呐喊》就是这个系列的22幅作品之一。
In 1892, Munch painted a precursor of The Scream called Sick Mood at Sunset, Despair. The composition – bloody sky, bridge with three figures, bluey-green lake and landscape – is strikingly similar, but the style, though relatively radical for the time, didn’t assault tradition in the manner of The Scream. The latter painting was Munch’s breakthrough, as ferocious existential anguish overwhelmed the earlier mood of polite melancholy.
1892年，蒙克绘制了《呐喊》的前身《日落时的阴郁情绪，绝望》(Sick Mood at Sunset, Despair)。画面的构成与《呐喊》非常相似——血色的天空，3个人站在桥上、湖水和景色都涂成了蓝绿色。然而，尽管那幅画在当时看来有些激进，但却并不像《呐喊》那样离经叛道。后者是蒙克画风的一次突破，以强烈的“存在性焦虑”压倒了早先那“儒雅的忧郁”。
An entry in Munch’s diary, dated 22 January 1892, recorded the inspiration for The Scream: “I was walking along the road with two friends – the sun went down – I felt a gust of melancholy – suddenly the sky turned a bloody red. I stopped, leaned against the railing, tired to death – as the flaming skies hung like blood and sword over the blue-black fjord and the city – my friends went on – I stood there trembling with anxiety – and I felt a vast infinite scream through nature.”
The figure in The Scream, then, may be a kind of self-portrait of the artist, whose older sister, Sophie, had died when he was 13. Art historians have also suggested another source for it – a Peruvian mummy that Munch saw at the World’s Fair in Paris in 1889.
At the Neue Galerie, The Scream is the final image that visitors encounter in the exhibition, because, as Lloyd says, “Everything about it is the essence of Expressionism.”
We all scream
Of course, from an art-historical perspective, Lloyd is correct. Within the exhibition, a glowering woodcut from 1917 by the German artist Erich Heckel makes plain the Expressionist debt to Munch: Heckel’s composition, in which a man holds his temples while standing in a forbidding wasteland that seems to explode into shards of light, is obviously indebted to Munch’s black-and-white 1895 lithograph of The Scream. In the early 20th Century, this print was the most widely circulated version of Munch’s picture.
Yet it wasn’t only the Expressionists who were influenced by Munch. The Scream was the ancestor of Francis Bacon’s pictures of howling popes. In 1984, Andy Warhol made a series of screen-prints that recast The Scream in bright, eye-popping colours.
然而，受到蒙克影响的不只是表现主义画家。弗朗西斯·培根(Francis Bacon)《尖叫的教皇》(Howling Pope)系列作品也受到了《呐喊》的启发。1984年，安迪·沃霍尔(Andy Warhol)也创作了一系列丝网印刷作品，用夺人眼球的明亮色彩重新诠释了《呐喊》。
The Scream also happens to be Tracey Emin’s favourite “historical” painting: in 1998, she even made a film in which she visited a Norwegian fjord and hollered for a full minute, while the camera lingered on the water. The charismatic Serbian performance artist Marina Abramovic persuaded inhabitants of Oslo to scream in public as a tribute to Munch. Echo Lake (1998), a sinister painting by the British artist Peter Doig, features a spectral policeman clutching his head in the manner of Munch’s Scream.
《呐喊》还是翠西·艾敏(Tracey Emin)最喜欢的“历史”绘画：1998年，她甚至专门拍摄了一部影片。在片中，她来到了挪威的一个峡湾，在那里呼喊了整整1分钟时间，镜头则始终落在水面上。塞尔维亚行为艺术家玛丽娜·阿布拉莫维奇(Marina Abramovic)也说服奥斯陆的居民一起在公共场合尖叫，以此纪念蒙克。英国画家彼得·多伊格(Peter Doig)在1998年创作了《回声湖》(Echo Lake)，里面有一个幽灵般的警察像蒙克《呐喊》里的主人公一样抓住自己的头。
Arguably, though, the most stunning thing about The Scream isn’t its impact upon subsequent art, but the way it transcended art history to become a touchstone of popular culture. The Scream has been ripped off, caricatured and lampooned so often that it is now far more famous, in its own right, than its creator.
People who have never heard of Munch still recognise The Scream, thanks to the innumerable references that have been made to it, in everything from The Simpsons to Wes Craven’s slasher franchise Scream, with its ‘Ghostface’ mask, inspired by Munch’s painting, worn by the killers. The thefts from museums in Oslo of different versions of The Scream – one in 1994, the other a decade later – only enhanced the image’s notoriety.
由于经常在各种场合被人引用，所以很多人虽然从未听说过蒙克，但却仍然认识《呐喊》这幅画。无论是《辛普森一家》(The Simpsons)还是韦斯·克雷文(Wes Craven)的《惊声尖叫》(Scream)系列恐怖片中的杀手佩戴的“鬼脸面具”，都可以看到《呐喊》的身影。挪威国家画廊两个版本的《呐喊》虽然曾经先后被盗——一幅在1994年，另外一幅发生在10年后——但却进一步提升了这幅作品的知名度。
In part, says Lloyd, the ubiquity of The Scream is a result of the fact that “it’s easy to make into a caricature – and that is not the case with many paintings. As an image, it is pared down to the essence, which means that once you’ve seen it, you don’t forget it: it’s very easy to understand as a visual idea. And, of course, by now, it has been everywhere: on handbags, posters, mugs, God knows what.”
At the same time, it is hard fully to explain its universal appeal. For Lloyd, it was successful, as an image, because it articulated an important shift that occurred within Western culture around the turn of the 20th Century. “The Scream is one of those images that sums up a changing point in history,” she explains. “It presents man cut loose from all the certainties that had comforted him up until that point in the 19th Century: there is no God now, no tradition, no habits or customs – just poor man in a moment of existential crisis, facing a universe he doesn’t understand and can only relate to in a feeling of panic.”
She adds: “That may sound very negative, but that is the modern state. This is what distinguishes modern man from post-Renaissance history up until that moment: this feeling that we have lost all the anchors that bind us to the world.”