The words “Can only have been painted by a madman” have sparked serious debates in the art world. Experts discussed whether the Norwegian artist wrote the message himself or whether the painting was destroyed by an unimpressed viewer.
The barely visible sentence was written in pencil in the upper left corner.
New tests by the National Museum of Norway, in which the handwriting was analyzed using technology and compared with the writing in the artist’s letters and diaries, have now confirmed that the words were written by Munch himself.
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“The writing is without a doubt Munch’s own,” said museum curator Mai Britt Guleng.
“The manuscript itself and the events in 1895, when Munch first showed the painting in Norway, all point in the same direction.”
When she appeared on BBC Radio 4’s Today show, she stated that “oddly enough,” until recently, little had been speculated about the inscription.
“[The message] both can be read as a declaration of vulnerability [but also] shows us the painter who likes to provoke, ”she said.
Munch created four versions of The Scream – two in color and two in pastel – along with a lithographic stone from which a number of prints were made.
When the first version was first unveiled, it sparked heavy criticism and gossip about the state of Munch’s sanity.
It is believed that the artist, hurt by the reaction, added his statement to the painting after its first exhibition.
He was hospitalized after a nervous breakdown in 1908.
The scream will be exhibited in the newly built Norwegian National Museum from 2022 along with several other works by Munch.
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