This exploration is for all ages, as the colored smilies show. You can create your own version of The Scream with your whole family together!
Munch’s The Scream is an art exploration from Unit 4-8 about Expressionism. Layers of Learning has hands-on art projects in every unit of this family-friendly curriculum. Learn more about Layers of Learning.
Edvard Munch was a Norwegian painter. When people are asked what they feel when they look at his paintings, the typical response is anguish. He was influenced by the Impressionist painters, especially Claude Monet. Munch actually lived and painted before the official time of Expressionism began, but his paintings were distinctly Expressionist. Expressionist painters focused on painting emotions, and, consequently, Munch had strong emotions to paint.
Munch painted loneliness, terror, love, anxiety, life and death. He had experienced these things. He watched his mother and sister die of tuberculosis and was raised by his father who had a severe mental illness. His life was difficult, and those difficulties show in his paintings.
He painted one of the most famous and recognized paintings of all time, The Scream. This is what he wrote in his diary about the incident that inspired him to paint it: “I was walking along the road with two friends – the sun went down. I felt a gust of melancholy. Suddenly the sky turned a bloody red. I stopped, leaned against the railing, tired to death as the flaming skies hung like blood and sword over the blue-black fjord and the city. My friends went on. I stood trembling with anxiety and I felt a vast infinite scream through nature.” First, look at The Scream, then read Munch ‘s description. Finally, look at the painting once again. What do you notice about it now that you didn’t see the first time?
Step 1: Library Research
Before you begin exploring, read a book or two about Munch and Expressionism. Here are some suggestions, but if you can’t find these, look for books at your library about Expressionism, Munch, or Abstract Expressionism. The colored smilies above each book tell you what age level they’re recommended for.
I Like Art: Expressionism
by Margaux Stanitsas
by Jim Whiting
by Ulrich Bischoff
Step 2: The Scream Art Exploration
First of all, you’ll need a camera, card stock, tempera paints, brushes, a ruler, scissors, and glue. You might also want to take the Scream-posed photograph ahead of time so you can have the pictures printed and ready to go for the art project.
Make Your Own Version of The Scream
- Begin by looking at Munch’s version of the painting and creating your own similar background. First, create the straight lines of the diagonal bridge. Use a ruler to sketch the straight lines of the rails. Paint the bridge and guardrails in many brown tones using tempera paints. Include the geometric shapes of the two men standing on the bridge.
- Next, create a curving horizon line and fill in the top third with orange and yellow curving lines.
- Finally, paint the water and land below.
- Pose with an anguished screaming expression for a photo. Print out the photo and cut right around your outline.
- Glue the photo of yourself on to your painted background (make sure the paint is totally dry first).
Step 3: Show What You Know
In addition to painting, write a list of things that would make you scream. Nightmares? Being suddenly frightened? Spiders? What is it that makes you feel afraid? Make your list of frightening things and read it out loud as you show off your painting to an audience.
Additional Layers are extra activities you can do or tangents you can take off on. You will find them in the sidebars of each Layers of Learning unit. They are optional, so just choose what interests you.
Munch often painted fears that were playing out in his mind. What are you afraid of? Think of something you are afraid of. Write about how that makes you feel without actually stating what exactly you are afraid of. Can you make your description so vivid that we could guess your fear without being told what it is?
The Scream was involved in one of the most famous art thefts of all time. It was stolen right out of the National Gallery. Fortunately, it was recovered a few months later. It has been targeted a number of times by thieves.
Edvard Munch said, “No longer shall I paint interiors with men reading and women knitting. I will paint living people who breathe and feel and suffer and love.”
What do you think he meant? What does this have to do with Expressionism?
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