The Scream, 1893 by Edvard Munch
Several facts indicate Munch was aware of the danger of an art of this sort for a neurotic humanist like himself. He soon abandoned the style and rarely if ever again subjected a foreground figure to this kind of radical and systematic distortion. At the top of another version of the subject (National Gallery, Oslo) he wrote: 'Can only have been painted by a madman.' He certainly had a horror of insanity, which had afflicted his sister Laura. Within the picture, he has set up a defense, in the form of the plunging perspective of the roadway and its fence, which preserves a rational world of three dimensions, holding at bay the swell of art nouveau curves. Safe in this rational world, the two men in the distance remain unequivocably masculine. In the foreground unified nature has come close to crossing the fence, close enough to distort the form and personality of the protagonist. But the fence still protects it from total absorption into subjective madness.
The Scream has been the target of several high-profile art thefts. In 1994, the version in the National Gallery was stolen. It was recovered several months later.
The 1895 pastel-on-board version of the painting was sold at Sotheby's for a record US$120 million at auction on 2 May 2012. The previous record for the most expensive work of art sold at auction had been held by Pablo Picasso's Nude, Green Leaves and Bust, which went for US$106.5 million at Christie's two years prior on 4 May 2010.