On May 7, 1994, Norway’s most famous painting, “The Scream” by Edvard Munch, was recovered almost three months after it was stolen from a museum in Oslo. Try your luck with these trivia questions to see how much you know about this iconic painting...
What Does "The Scream" Represent? Munch's life was marked by great sadness and a family history of mental illness. Five years after his 1863 birth, Munch's mother died of tuberculosis, a disease that also took the life of his older sister, Johanne Sophie, in 1877. Although he briefly studied to be an engineer, Munch decided instead to become a painter. He studied at the Royal School of Art and Design of Christiana, where he experimented with many styles of art, including Impressionism and Naturalism. After school, he lived and worked in Paris and Berlin, gradually moving from Impressionism to Symbolism, a style that he believed best suited his view of art. "The Scream" and several of his other paintings are examples of what Munch called his "soul painting," visual representations of the inner turmoil and anxiety from which he suffered.
How Many Versions of 'The Scream' Did Munch Paint? Munch painted four versions of the painting that he called "Der Schrei der Natur" (German for The Scream of Nature) in various media. The Munch Museum in Oslo exhibits two of the four versions -- one painted in oil and the other in pastel. Another version in oil hangs in Norway's National Gallery, also in Oslo. It was this latter version of the painting that was stolen in 1994. The fourth version, a pastel, was bought at Sotheby's May 2012 auction of Impressionist and Modern art for just short of $120 million by U.S. financier Leon Black. The financier, an enthusiastic collector of art and Judaica, loaned the Munch painting to New York City's Museum of Modern Art, where it was on display from October 2012 until April 2013.
How Was 'The Scream' Stolen? On February 12, 1994, most Norwegians turned their attention toward Lillehammer, host city for the 1994 Winter Olympics, which opened that day. In Oslo, two men broke into the National Gallery and snatched the museum's oil version of "The Scream." In its place, they left a note saying, "Thanks for the poor security." The following month, the thieves demanded $1 million for the safe return of the painting, but the gallery refused to pay. Working with British law enforcement authorities and the Getty Museum of Los Angeles, Norwegian police set up a sting operation that ended with the recovery of the painting on May 7, 1994. In January 1996, four men were convicted in connection with the theft of the painting.
Which Other Version of the Painting Was Also Stolen? Just over a decade after the theft of the National Gallery's oil version of "The Scream," thieves targeted the only other oil version of the painting, which was in the collection of the Munch Museum. On August 22, 2004, armed gunmen entered the museum and made off with both "The Scream" and Munch's "Madonna." In the wake of the brazen robbery, police arrested a number of suspects but were frustrated in their attempts to actually recover the artwork. Finally, just over two years later, Norwegian police announced that they had successfully recovered both of the Munch paintings.