COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) – The Norwegian National Museum says that a small barely visible sentence written in pencil on Edvard Munch’s 1893 masterpiece “The Scream” was written by the Norwegian painter himself .
The painting which shows a wasp-shaped figure cradling its head in its hands with its mouth open, has become a global icon for the expression of human anxiety. The phrase – “can only have been painted by a madman” – was scrawled in the upper left corner.
The painting is being prepared for display at the new National Museum of Norway due to open in Oslo, the Norwegian capital, in 2022. In this regard, the painting has been the subject of research and conservation.
“The handwriting is without a doubt Munch’s,” Mai Britt Guleng, curator at the National Museum, said in a statement on Monday, adding that it was being compared to the painter’s own scribbling in his journals and letters.
“The writing itself, as well as the events that happened in 1895, when Munch first showed the painting in Norway, all point in the same direction,” Guleng said.
The writing on the canvas was added after Munch finished the painting, but for years it remained a mystery, the museum said in a statement. Speculation ranges from the act of vandalism by an indignant spectator to something written by Munch himself.
Guleng said the inscription was probably made “in 1895, when Munch first exhibited the painting.”
The painting at the time sparked public speculation about Munch’s mental state. During an evening chat attended by the artist, a young medical student questioned Munch’s sanity and claimed his work proved he was not healthy.
“It is likely that Munch added the inscription in 1895, or shortly thereafter, in response to the judgment on his work,” the statement read.
Munch was deeply hurt by the accusations, returning to the incident over and over again in letters and diary entries. His father and sister both suffered from depression, and Munch was eventually hospitalized after a nervous breakdown in 1908, Guleng said.
The National Gallery was temporarily closed in 2019 to ensure a safe move process to the new National Museum, currently under construction in downtown Oslo. The museum will exhibit 400,000 objects ranging from antiquity to the present day and will include paintings, sculptures, drawings, textiles, furniture and architectural models.
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