A version of The Scream, one of the world’s most famous paintings, will go on sale this May in New York and is expected to fetch at least $US80 million, Sotheby’s auctioneers say. Norwegian businessman Petter Olsen, whose father was a friend and patron of artist Edvard Munch, currently owns the work. It will go on the block in New York on May 2, headlining the impressionist and modern art sales.
Sotheby’s describes The Scream as “one of the most instantly recognisable images in both art history and popular culture, perhaps second only to the Mona Lisa.” There are four versions of the painting, which features a man screaming and clutching his head against a wavy, brightly-coloured landscape, but this is the only one in private hands. The influence of the image, described by Munch as recording a moment of paralysing anxiety during a walk with friends in the hills above Oslo, has few parallels.
Copies have adorned everything from student dorms to tea mugs and the work is arguably one of the few known equally to art experts and the general public alike.
Dating from 1895, The Scream offered by Sotheby’s is done in pastel and is the only one in which one of the two figures in the background turns to look outward. The work will be exhibited at Sotheby’s in London on April 13 and in New York starting April 27 ahead of the sale.
Simon Shaw, head of Sotheby’s impressionist and modern art department in New York, called The Scream the “defining image of modernity”. “Instantly recognisable, this is one of very few images which transcends art history and reaches a global consciousness. The Scream arguably embodies even greater power today than when it was conceived,” he said in a statement.
Olsen said in a statement that he wants proceeds from the sale to go toward the establishment of a new museum and hotel on his farm in Hvitsten, Norway.
Munch died in his native Norway in January 1944 at the age of 80. In a poem, the artist inscribed on the frame of the version coming up for sale, Munch wrote of feeling “deathly tired” and while letting his friends walk on, “I remained behind, shivering with anxiety – I felt the great Scream in nature”.