The blood-red sky that appears to frighten the tormented figure in Edvard Munch's famous painting "The Scream" was probably caused by the faraway eruption of the volcano Krakatoa, a team of researchers has concluded after analyzing the background location, the artist's journals and reports of "Krakatoa twilights."
The team from Texas State University traveled to Oslo, and found the location of the painting's background. They also concluded that Munch would have been facing in the direction of a cloudscape that had been reddened by the explosion of the volcano. The massive eruption, in what is now Indonesia, occurred in 1883 and sent dust and gases high into the atmosphere, causing twilights to glow red around the world. The team found that Oslo newspapers reported the red sky was very visible at the time.
The work was painted in 1893, a decade after the eruption. That delay was one reason earlier researchers did not make the connection with the volcano. But the Texas team found journal entries by Munch alluding to the remarkably red sky he once saw in Oslo, when he "felt a great, unending scream piercing through nature." The research was reported in Sky & Telescope magazine.
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Sunday, December 21, 2003