Beyond the Book: Background information when reading The Rescue Artist

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The Rescue Artist

A True Story of Art, Thieves, and the Hunt for a Missing Masterpiece

by Edward Dolnick

The Rescue Artist by Edward Dolnick
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  • First Published:
    Jun 2005, 270 pages
    Paperback:
    Jul 2006, 320 pages

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Beyond the Book

Print Review

Edvard Munch, Norway's most popular artist, died in 1944, aged 81. He was a painter, lithographer, etcher and wood engraver, most famous for his paintings of The Scream. . He created five different variations of The Scream (4 paintings and one lithograph) which is fortunate as the Norwegians do seem to have a habit of losing them. In 1994 one was stolen from Oslo's National Gallery, and then in 2004 another version was stolen from the Munch Museum (a tempura on cardboard version) along with Munch's Madonna. Three men have been convicted of the 2004 theft but the painting has not been recovered.  You can read the fascinating story of the 1994 theft (which reads like something out of an Inspector Clouseau movie) and eventual recovery in The Rescue Artist.  (A photograph of the thieves getting away with the two paintings).

Some years after completing the paintings, Munch wrote in his diary (in reference to his inspiration for The Scream), "I felt a trace of sadness and the sky suddenly turned blood red. I stopped walking, leaned against the railing...I watched the flaming clouds over the fjord.....I stood there shaking with fear and I felt a great unending scream penetrate unending nature."

Some scientists now believe that the vivid sunset Munch saw was caused by the fallout from Krakatoa's eruption, which caused exceptional sunsets across Europe in the winter of 1883-4.

This article was originally published in August 2005, and has been updated for the July 2006 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.

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