Astronomical Sleuths Link Krakatoa to Edvard Munch's Painting The Scream
A Sky & Telescope Press Release
December 9, 2003Contacts:
Stuart Goldman, Associate Editor
617-864-7360 x141, sgoldman@SkyandTelescope.com
Marcy L. Dill, Marketing Director
617-864-7360 x143, mdill@SkyandTelescope.com
|Note to Editors/Producers:|
· A PDF file of the article "When the Sky Ran Red: The Story Behind The Scream" (Sky & Telescope, February 2004, p. 28) is available in our S&T Magazine Archive; see details below.
· Publication-quality images of The Scream and volcanic activity at Krakatoa are also available, as noted in the captions below.
A new analysis of Edvard Munch's The Scream provides the precise location where Munch and his friends were walking when he saw the blood-red sky depicted in the 1893 painting, as well as an explanation of why the sky appeared to be on fire. Through Munch's journals, topographic analysis, and a connection to the eruption of Krakatoa, proof now exists that the spectacular twilight seen in one of today's most recognizable paintings was inspired by this dramatic event.
They determined that Munch and his friends were walking along a road once called Ljabrochausséen, which is now a modern roadway called Mosseveien. It was along the railing of Ljabrochausséen that Munch became overwhelmed with emotion. Olson and his team located a rocky hillside overlook that precisely matches the artist's vista of Christiania (now Oslo) harbor and Hovedø island.
The researchers also debunked an earlier notion that the inspiration for the painting occurred in the autumn of 1891. Munch painted the most famous version of The Scream in 1893 as part of The Frieze of Life, a group of works derived from his personal experiences. The works in The Frieze of Life were painted in the 1890s, but many of them have established origins in the preceding decades.
After studying Munch's journals and investigating sky phenomena that might have created the "blood-red sky," Olson and his colleagues determined that it was the eruption of Krakatoa volcano that produced the colorful twilights. Krakatoa exploded on August 27, 1883, sending dust and gases high into the atmosphere. Reports collected by the Royal Society in London show that unusually red twilight glows appeared in Norway from late November 1883 through the middle of February 1884. The spectacle was widely seen, as Christiania's daily newspaper reported on November 30, 1883.
"One of the high points of our research trip to Oslo came when we rounded a bend in the road and realized we were standing in the exact spot where Munch had been 120 years ago," Olson recalls. "It was very satisfying to stand in the exact spot where an artist had his experience," he adds. "The real importance of finding the location, though, was to determine the direction of view in the painting. We could see that Munch was looking to the southwest exactly where the Krakatoa twilights appeared in the winter of 1883-84."
The February 2004 issue of Sky & Telescope will be on sale at newsstands worldwide from January 6th to February 2nd. Due to the great interest in "When the Sky Ran Red: The Story Behind The Scream," we are making this article available immediately via our S&T Magazine Archive:mdill@SkyandTelescope.com). S&T Magazine Archive subscribers may download the 1-megabyte PDF file for free after logging in at SkyandTelescope.com. Nonsubscribers (i.e., members of the general public) may purchase the PDF a la carte for $2.95.
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