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17.3.05

Barbaric YAWP

On March 16, ArtsJournal linked to an article (The Scream — but whose?, March 16) by Doug Mellgren for Associated Press about Munch's iconic painting(s) The Scream:

Most believe the icon of anxiety is screaming. Or is it? It could just as well be listening to a scream. In his own writings about the painting, Munch said he was walking with friends when the sky turned blood red: "I stood there trembling with anxiety — and I sensed an infinite scream passing through nature."
I thought that this question had been answered quite satisfactorily by scientists who linked the meteorological phenomenon Munch describes to the volcanic explosion on Krakatoa in 1883, which I wrote about here (Volcanic Atmosphere, Not Existential Angst?, December 9, 2003). These scientists showed that red skies across Europe were caused by plumes of volcanic ash and gases that circled the globe's atmosphere for months.

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