Three gaping holes, one at each angle of a triangle, then two smaller ones in the centre: two eyes, a mouth and nostrils. This face haunts and obsesses us. These are, in fact, three open mouths screaming their despair. Chinese represent the mouth with a 口 (kŏu). Three mouths set as a triangle become 品 (pĭn), which designates a product or an object. With Munch, the mouths are stacked in the reverse order, like in 咒 (zhòu), which means to curse, on in 哭 (kū) that stands for to weep.

Mouth, reification, curse and tears... Everything is said... On this bridge that comes from nowhere and goes only God knows where, an asexual character is transformed into an object, caught in a cyclone of bright colours. He is afraid of moving forward. He is afraid of stepping backwards. He is afraid of jumping over the railing. He is turned into an object left to the whims of uncontrollable elements. His three mouths curse his fate. His three eyes weep. He is the only one to feel this oppression because the two other male characters, in the background, seem idle and oblivious to any danger.

Even if the four versions of this picture were painted between 1893 and 1917, experts now agree to associate this blazing sunset with the ashes that were blown out during the explosion of the Krakatoa volcano on August 27, 1883. Munch had originally titled his paintings in German Der Schrei der Natur: the scream of nature. The artist wrote in his diary, on July 22nd, 1892: “I was walking along a trail with two friends – the sun was setting down – all of a sudden the sky became blood-red – I stopped, tired, and leaned on a railing – there was blood and tongues of fire above the blue-black fjord of the city – my friends continued, while I stayed trembling with anxiety – I felt an infinite scream happening across the universe, that was tearing the nature apart.”

Premonition or coincidence, the three mouths in a triangle around a central core are used today to signal another type of hazard, imperceptible to ordinary mortals, but with potentially devastating effects... The nuclear risk. Maybe, Munch, more than a century away from our time, recall us the need to care for nature…


Louis Doucet, February 2013






> Version Française

> Version Allemande

> Version Anglaise




> Le baiser de KLIMT

> La Joconde de Léonard de Vinci

> Le Radeau de la Méduse

> Olympia de MANET



> Louis DOUCET