May 7, 1994: “The Scream” by Edvard Munch recovered after art theft
The “Der Schrei der Natur” (The Scream of Nature), more commonly known simply as, “The Scream” is a popular painting by Norwegian expressionist Edvard Munch. “The Scream” has had an interesting history, including a time that it was stolen and missing for a few months. On this day in 1994, it was safely recovered and would soon be restored to its rightful place.
Creation of “The Scream”
Munch was inspired to create “Der Schrei der Natur” while out on a walk in the countryside one evening. He said that the light of the setting sun turned the clouds a bloody red and he sensed a “scream passing through nature.” Scholars have since located the sight of this fateful walk to a fjord near Oslo and suggested that the color of the sky may be attributed to a nearby volcanic eruption. Whatever occurrence behind the color of the sky and Munch’s sense of nature’s distress, it leads to the creation of one of the most famous paintings in history. Munch created four versions of the painting in 1893.
The 1994 theft
Versions of “The Scream” have been stolen twice, once in 1994 and again in 2004. The 1994 theft occurred at Norway’s National Theatre on the opening day of the Winter Olympics, February 12. The theft took only 50 seconds. Two thieves broke a window for entry to the gallery, cut the single wire holding the painting in place and walked away with it, leaving a note reading, “Thousand thanks for the bad security.”
A Norwegian anti-abortion group attempted to claim responsibility for the theft, but that claim was proved false. Another ransom demand (for a roughly $1 million) was given to authorities but was rejected. Eventually, police arrested four men in connection with the theft, including Paul Enger, who had stolen another of Munch’s paintings, “The Vampire.” Norwegian police later found the “The Scream” undamaged in a hotel in the town of Asgardstrand, after a sting operation with the help of British police.