The story goes that as the artist was walking with friends late one afternoon down Oslo's chilly streets, he suddenly stopped, halfway across a bridge, unable to take another step. His companions hardly noticed him lagging behind.
Munch describes what happened next.
"I was walking along a path with two friends – the sun was setting – suddenly the sky turned blood red – I paused, feeling exhausted, and leaned on the fence – there was blood and tongues of fire above the blue-black fjord and the city – my friends walked on, and I stood there trembling with anxiety – and I sensed an infinite scream passing through nature."
Historians claim that his panic attack/epiphany took place in 1883. The skies were a lurid blood red because of the volumes of volcanic ash launched into the stratosphere by Krakatoa. Ten years later, Munch depicted this and other expressions of the anxiety that filled his life on canvas.
Some of his other paintings - Anxiety, Despair, portrait of Nietzsche - also have the bridge as the location for his subject. The man on the bridge: caught between the past and the future, his beginning and his end. Suspended between the sky above and the depths below.
You gotta love it. A fabulous gift idea for that special someone. Emphasis on 'special'.
Have you heard the scream? Has anyone not heard it? It is especially piercing and sustained in our troubled times. Perhaps that's why this work is so universally appealing.
That, and the artist's cool last name.
E. Munch is definitely up there with the other greats. Tedy Bruschi. Coco Crisp. Kevin Mench.
But I digress.