The Scream of 2020 - Acrylic painting on canvas by Paulina Ponsford
"One evening I was walking along a path, the city was on one side and the fjord below. I felt tired and ill. I stopped and looked out over the fjord—the sun was setting, and the clouds turning blood red. I sensed a scream passing through nature; it seemed to me that I heard the scream." Edvard Munch, 1892.
I was inspired to create The Scream of 2020 by Norwegian Expressionist artist Edvard Munch's most famous painting, The Scream of Nature, completed in 1893. His painting has become an iconic image of art, portraying an agonized face that has grown to symbolize the anxiety of the human condition. Having suffered from anxiety and experienced panic attacks myself, I can identify with the emotions Munch is portraying on this painting.
Munch created four versions of The Scream, two in paint and two in pastels. He also created a lithograph of the composition from which he produced several prints.
The most recognizable version of The Scream was stolen from the National Gallery in Oslo in February 1994 and recovered undamaged a few months later; it's currently in the collection of the National Gallery in Oslo. The 1910 version of The Scream was stolen in April 2005 from the Munch Museum in Oslo and was later recovered on August 2006, the painting had some moisture damage and needed repair and restoration.
In May 2012, the second pastel-on-board version of The Scream was sold at Sotheby's auction in London for a record price of nearly US$120 million. The bidding started at $40 million and lasted for over 12 minutes when American businessman Leon Black by phone gave the final offer of US$119,922,500, including the buyer's premium. As of 2018, the pastel remains the fourth highest nominal price paid for a painting at auction.
I wanted to create a modern version of this compelling composition reflecting the fear and anxiety we are globally and currently experiencing. Painting The Scream of 2020 was a cathartic process for me; I came to understand Munch's iconic painting at a deeper level; at the same time, it was fun and therapeutic.
The world as a whole is going through unknown and trying times; we have been experiencing the wrath of mother nature in various forms with devastating earthquakes, storms, and forest fires—to name a few. We have also been under the cloak of a severe economic recession for some time; if these weren't enough, we now have to deal with a pandemic that has caused a global social crisis and the most significant economic recession since the Great Depression of the 1930s.
The fabric of human nature is weaved with devastating events throughout time, also with resilience and a will to survive. We are living in modern times, but the essence of human nature and our intrinsic fear of the unknown remains the same. I can also hear the scream, the scream of 2020.
I leave you with a short video of my journey painting The Scream of 2020.