Edvard Munch is best known for The Scream, 1893, an image endlessly reproduced in the media to depict mental anguish. Explanations of the meaning behind the image abound, mainly focusing on an outpouring of emotion in response to suffering. Munch’s own explanation is revealed in his diaries, which recall the melancholy of a walk along a bridge with friends. Trembling in fear at the fiery sunset, he sensed ‘how an infinite scream was going through the whole of nature’. This dehumanised figure, into which viewers project their own neuroses, is not screaming but blocking out the scream of its existence.
- © 2011 Royal College of Psychiatrists