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‘The Scream’ Paintings, Scientists May Have Figured Out The Reason Behind The Man’s Scream

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    Art Art Apr 26, 2017 09:30 AM EDT

    One of 'The Scream' artwork broke auction records in 2012 when it sold for nearly $120 million.
    One of 'The Scream' artwork broke auction records in 2012 when it sold for nearly $120 million. (Photo : Spencer Platt / Getty Images)

     

    "The Scream", created by artist Edvard Munch, depicts the extreme psychological anguish a man endures, alone, on a bridge beneath a raging blood-red sky. But scientists have now suggested that Munch could have witnessed the rare weather phenomenon known as nacreous clouds.

    Dr. Helene Muri from the University of Olso stated during a talk held Tuesday at the European Geosciences Union (EGU) General Assembly in Vienna, that Munch was likely painting some crazy clouds for The Scream, rather than stomach-churning angst. She said the nacreous clouds, also known as "Mother of Pearl clouds" or "screaming clouds" form in extremely cold temperatures at very high altitudes, combined with humidity.

    The very distinct colorings of the clouds painted in The Scream are a combination of scattering, diffraction and internal refraction of the sunlight on these tiny ice crystals. The clouds manifest only at sunset or after dark, appearing like thin, wriggling waves in eccentric colors, according to BBC.

    The reddish hue was probably adopted to illustrate the eruption of the Krakatoa volcano, which happened nine years before Munch's first painting of The Scream in 1893. Volcanic fallout normally remains in the air for years following a massive eruption, and can bring forth sunsets resembling fiery explosions, as seen in The Scream.

    However, the scientific explanation fits with Munch's description of The Scream's shocking sky in his 1890 journal. "The sky suddenly became bloodish red. I stopped, leaned against the fence, tired to death, watched over the flaming clouds as blood and sword the city - the blue-black fjord and the city. My friends went away, I stood there shivering from dread - and I felt this big, infinite scream through nature."

    Dr. Muri told The Telegraph that she is unsure if there were mother-of-pearl clouds in the Oslo area in the late 19th century. Despite living in Oslo for 25 years, she's only seen the Mother of Pearl clouds once herself.

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