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"The Scream" Sells For $120 Million! Why?

Some people have money to burn! Edvard Munch's The Scream (1895) painting just sold for a record US $120 million at an auction. Bidding started at $50 million and ended when an unnamed bidder gave the final offer by phone. A Rothschild? A Windsor? A Goldman Sachs, perhaps?

The impressionist masterpiece is the most expensive painting ever sold at an auction smashing the record of $106.5 million set by Pablo Picasso's "Nude, green leaves and bust" in 2010.

The Scream is the most famous art work in the world in private hands. It is second only in worldly fame to the 'Mona Lisa.'

The iconic Ghostface mask worn by the villains of the Hollywood Scream horror movies is based on the painting.


The demons of Edvard Munch's mind took the form of anxiety, depression and later close shaves with alcoholism. Munch's sister, Laura, was considered mentally ill. Of five siblings, only one brother, Andreas, married - only to die soon after his wedding.

At 22, Munch left Norway for Paris. His art developed and so did his neurosis. He had a particularly difficult time with women whom he pursued relentlessly, but deeply mistrusted. His relationships often turned to hatred and even violence. His most passionate affair ended with the use of a gun and Munch injured his left thumb.

His artwork exploded and he became a pioneer in the Expressionist movement. Expressionism emphasizes inner emotions rather than outer realities. The artist uses exaggeration and distortion to achieve the emotional qualities in the work. Munch had all the ingredients - a tragic childhood, anxiety, depression and neurosis to make him an outstanding expressionist painter. He has influenced the artworld around the globe, but particularly in Germany, where he lived for a time after leaving Paris.

The figure in the foreground of The Scream has a fearful, shocked expression on a distorted face. The swirling, violent colors of the sky infuse the painting with a voice - a crying, shrieking scream. While it is unclear whether the subject of The Scream is a self-portrait, the painting is definitely autobiographical. Munch wrote in his diary how he came to paint it:

"I was walking along the street with two friends - the sun was going down - I felt a touch of melancholy. Suddenly the color of the sky changed to blood red. I stopped walking and leaned against a fence feeling tired to death - I saw the flaming clouds like bloodstained swords - the blue-black fjord and the city - my friends went on walking - I stood there trembling with fear - and I felt how a long unending scream was going through the whole of nature."

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