Did Edvard Munch paint nacreous clouds? The hypothesis was put forward by Norwegian scientists at the European Geosciences Union General Assembly in Vienna this spring (2017.) The long-held assumption is that the vividly colored sky in The Scream (1893) is a reflection of the artist’s troubled mind. A facile analysis and attractive mostly for the reason that we like to attribute romantic madness to our artists. More careful research is showing that some paintings that have been thought to contain fanciful imagery are really representing unusual meteorological phenomena, such as the lurid sunsets that happened after the volcano Krakatoa (1883) put huge quantities of aerosols into the atmosphere.
Munch himself said in his diary about the incident that inspired The Scream:
I went along the road with two friends – the sun set
I felt like a breath of sadness –
– The sky suddenly became bloodish red
I stopped, leant 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
Check out the links and get the rest of the story. Go have a look at the Green Comet Cloud of the Day post on nacreous clouds and see if they look anything like the sky in Munch’s The Scream. This could be speculation, somewhat like my suggestion that Vincent van Gogh might have been inspired by asperatus clouds to paint some of his skies. It is also quite possible that this hypothesis is accurate and that Edvard Munch really did see nacreaous clouds. Personally, I prefer it to the analyses of pop pshycologists.