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Listening to the Scream

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"Modern art contradicts most of our assumptions about art. It isn't about heroes to emulate and challenge us, relaxing scenes with happy trees and quaint cottages to comfort us, outrageous images that entertain or scandalize us, or even expressions of an artist's 'worldview.'"

On my last visit to New York, I went to the Museum of Modern Art to see The Scream, a little drawing in pastel by Edvard Munch on loan from a private collector. It is one of four versions that the artist made of the famous subject: a genderless figure, standing on a bridge, holding its hairless head and screaming. The image of the silent scream has entered our popular visual culture, from coffee mugs to Macaulay Culkin's trademark expression in the movie Home Alone. It hangs on a custom-built display wall in the center of a room, amid other drawings, prints, and paintings by the Norwegian artist where tourists crowd in front of the little pastel to pose with their version of the famous gesture.

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1 [ Back ] Sue Prideaux, Edvard Munch: Behind the Scream (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2005).
2 [ Back ] Alex Danchev, C├ęzanne: A Life (New York: Pantheon, 2012).
3 [ Back ] Oswald Bayer, Martin Luther's Theology (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2003), 107.
4 [ Back ] Bayer, 115.
5 [ Back ] Prideaux, 151.
6 [ Back ] Danchev.
7 [ Back ] Oswald Bayer, Living By Faith (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2003), 69.

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Daniel A. Siedell is an art historian on the faculty of Knox Theological Seminary.

Issue: "Spiritual (Re)formation" July/August 2013 Vol. 22 No. 4 Page number(s): 5-9

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