Wellesley Professor Reflects on Cultural Value of Sale of $120m 'The Scream'

The Scream sold at auction last night for a record price. A Wellesley professor examines what may be the most significant value of the work—its lasting cultural impact.

Last night, the last privately owned version of Edvard Munch's iconic painting "The Scream" sold at auction for a record-setting $120 million. The painting is one of the most recognizable and reproduced works of art in the world. On today's homepage, Wellesley College Professor Patricia Berman reflects on the real value of the piece -- its cultural impact.

“The most immediate element, and the one that grabs us, is the boneless figure with the skull-like face, a human reduced to a basic, almost devolved life form. But the figure alone does not capture the raw power of the painting: the colors are intense and dissonant, causing optical excitation. That bridge to the left LOOKS like it should be a logical structure, stretching into the background, whereas it telescopes and throws the foreground figure into our own space. The body resonates with the sky, the water, the hills, so that there seems to be no barrier between the body and the environment. And of course the foreground figure is made all the more horrifying because of the two background figures that seem oblivious of the dissolving figure in the foreground. It is controlled, skillful, and open-ended in its story, making it therefore available to all of us to project ourselves into it." - Patricia G. Berman, Theodora L. and Stanley H. Felberg Professor of Art.

Read the full story on the Wellesley College Web site.

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