Munch was only 29 when he painted The Scream, but he was already burdened with tragedy and loss. His Oslo childhood had been deeply unhappy from the moment his mother died when he was five. His father terrorized the five children taking every word of the Bible as a literal truth and convincing them that any misbehaviour would be condemned to everlasting flames.
"Sickness, insanity and death with the black angels that kept watch over my cradle had since followed me all my life. At early age I was told about the miseries of life on this Earth, about life after death and also about the agonies of hell suffered by the children who sinned.."
Munch survived, but his sisters and brother slowly deteriorated around him. His favourite sister Sophie died when he was fourteen and Lora was diagnosed with melancholia. Munch himself suffered prolonged periods of sickness and depression bordering on mental illness.
From young age he was obsessed with drawing and by 1880 he decided to be a painter. His home was still in Christiania, not yet a capital city and in many ways just a provincial town. It was very puritanical society and very severe, but against that there was developing a bohemian group led by the novelist Hans Jaeger and he had proclaimed a commandment to young artists, poets, novelists that you should write your own life.
This message was taken by the group as gospel.
Munch threw himself into the dissolute life of Christiania artists, but never quite joined in Hans Jaeger revolutionary idea of free love.
|Portrait of Hans Jaeger by Munch|
The experimental relationship Jaeger encourage made the various love triangles existing within the group. Munch was involved with a married woman, Millie Thaulow. She was his first big love affair, but Munch was constantly wrapped by guilt and jealousy. The anguish of the affair became essential part of his paintings.
In the work Evening on Karl Johan made one year before The Scream, the figure in the left represents Munch roaming the streets of Oslo hoping to catch a glimpse of Millie Thaulow, the staring faces are indifferent to him. His relationship with her ended bitterly and she took up with someone else, leaving Munch heartbroken.
|Evening on Karl Johan|
The same year his affair ended, he had to face the trauma of his father's death. The disciplinary father that petrified the infant Munch had also deplored his adult career as well, and yet his death was a terrible blow.