ENTERTAINMENT

‘Painted by a madman’: Edvard Munch wrote a hidden message on ‘The Scream’

Feb 22, 2021, 6:22 AM
A tiny message hidden in Edvard Munch's famous painting "The Scream" was written by the artist hims...
A tiny message hidden in Edvard Munch's famous painting "The Scream" was written by the artist himself, a new investigation of the work has found, finally resolving one of modern art's most enduring mysteries. Credit: BAS CZERWINSKI/AFP/AFP/Getty Images

    (CNN) — A tiny message hidden in Edvard Munch’s famous painting “The Scream” was written by the artist himself, a new investigation of the work has found, finally resolving one of modern art’s most enduring mysteries.

The message “Can only have been painted by a madman,” scrawled and barely visible in the top left-hand corner of the painting, has been the subject of debate for decades and was widely believed to have been an act of vandalism by a viewer of the piece.

But extensive research by the National Museum of Norway has revealed that Munch wrote the phrase himself.

The Expressionist masterpiece is one of the most celebrated works of modern times, heralded as a timeless depiction of human anxiety. The subject’s anguished face has become so familiar that it was recently given its own emoji.

Curators used infrared technology to analyze the message, which was added on top of the finished painting, comparing it with Munch’s notes and letters and studying events around the time of the work’s first public showing.

“The writing is without a doubt Munch’s own,” Mai Britt Guleng, the museum’s curator, concluded. “The handwriting itself, as well as events that happened in 1895, when Munch showed the painting in Norway for the first time, all point in the same direction.”

The work has been undergoing extensive conservation at the museum ahead of a public showing. It has rarely been exhibited since it was briefly stolen in 2004, and damage to the piece has become more apparent in recent years.

After its first public unveiling, some critics dismissed the unnerving painting and there was frenzied discussion about Munch’s mental state, lending credence to the idea that an outraged third party scribbled their own damning review onto the work itself.

But curators said that reaction is probably what caused Munch to make the addition, with the artist upset about the critical response to the painting when he showed it in his hometown of Kristiania (now Oslo) for the first time.

“At a discussion night at the Students Association, where Munch is believed to have been present, the young medical student Johan Scharffenberg questioned Munch’s mental health claiming that his paintings proved he was not of sound mind,” the museum said. “It is likely that Munch added the inscription in 1895, or shortly after in response to the judgment on his work.”

They added that Munch was hurt by the accusation and referred to it again in his own diary entries.

“The Scream” is understood to have been inspired by a walk Munch took through the city while in a state of mental and physical unease.

A pastel version of the painting fetched nearly $120 million from an anonymous buyer at a Sotheby’s auction in New York in 2012 — at that time a world record for a work of art sold at auction.

The-CNN-Wire
™ & © 2021 Cable News Network, Inc., a WarnerMedia Company. All rights reserved.

Today’s Top Stories

Entertainment

Frankfurter-munching phenom Joey “Jaws” Chestnut has gobbled his way to a 15th win at the Natha...
By JENNIFER PELTZ and JULIA NIKHINSON Associated Press

Joey Chestnut is chomp champ again in July 4 hot dog contest

NEW YORK (AP) — Frankfurter-munching phenom Joey “Jaws” Chestnut put a protester in a chokehold while gobbling his way to a 15th win Monday at the Nathan’s Famous Fourth of July hot dog eating contest, powering down 63 hot dogs and buns at the annual exhibition of excess. In a decisive chowdown comeback, women’s record-holder […]
2 days ago
Salt Lake County is working to make sure its golf courses don't use as much water in the drought....
Martha Harris

Salt Lake County says it has decreased water-use on its golf courses

Salt Lake County says it has back water usage on its golf courses. The county says it has done by changing how they water.
5 days ago
Fireworks light up the night sky over Liberty Park Thursday July 24, 2003 Photo by Scott G Winterto...
Mark Jackson

Fireworks and some open flames are now banned in Park City

Just before the holiday weekend, Park City has banned fireworks and non-permitted open flames due to extreme drought conditions and fire risk.
5 days ago
Vehicles enter Zion National Park   on Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2020. With Independence Day set for Mond...
Mark Jones

Busy weekend expected at Zion National Park

With it being Independence Day on Monday, Zion National Park officials are expecting a busy weekend at the park and say visitors should expect long lines.
6 days ago
The Great Salt Lake Fringe Festival will make its in-person comeback from July 28 to Aug. 7. Courte...
Devin Oldroyd

The Great Salt Lake Fringe Festival is coming back to Salt Lake City

The Great Salt Lake Fringe Festival will make its in-person comeback from July 28 to Aug. 7.
6 days ago
Utah's Hogle Zoo welcomes a new red panda, Priya, to its Asian Highlands exhibit. Photo credit: Uta...
Devin Oldroyd

Hogle Zoo welcomes new Red Panda in effort to conserve the species

Utah's Hogle Zoo welcomes a new red panda, Priya, to its Asian Highlands exhibit. It hopes to breed her with Mow Mow, a red panda currently living there.
6 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Tax Harassment...
Jordan Wilcox

The best strategies for dealing with IRS tax harassment | You have options!

Learn how to deal with IRS tax harassment. This guide will teach you how to stop IRS phone calls and letters, and how to handle an IRS audit.
spend a day at Bear Lake...
Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

You’ll love spending the day at Bear Lake | How to spend a day at Bear Lake

Bear Lake is a place that needs to be experienced. Spend a day at Bear Lake.
Curb Appeal...
Price's Guaranteed Doors

How to have the best of both worlds for your house | Home security and curb appeal

Protect your home and improve its curb appeal with the latest security solutions like beautiful garage doors and increased security systems.
Prescription opioids can be disposed of during National Prescription Take Back Day...
Know Your Script

Prescription opioid misuse | How to protect your family from the opioid epidemic

Studies have shown that prescription opioid misuse has increased since COVID-19. So what do you need to know about these opioids?
national heart month...
Intermountain Healthcare

National Heart Month: 5 Lifestyle Changes to Make Today to Keep You Heart Healthy

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women. One person dies every 36 seconds in the United States from cardiovascular disease
Joseph Smith Memorial Building...
Temple Square

The Joseph Smith Memorial Building is an icon of Salt Lake City | Why hosting an event at this beautiful location will make you a hero this year

Here's why hosting an event at the iconic Joseph Smith Memorial Building in downtown Salt Lake City will make you a hero this year.
‘Painted by a madman’: Edvard Munch wrote a hidden message on ‘The Scream’