Sunday, December 10, 2006

 

The Rescue Artist

I found a book at the library the other day that I dove right into after finishing American Gods. It's called The Rescue Artist by Edward Dolnick and is the story about how thieves stole Edvard Munch's painting The Scream from the National Gallery in Oslo, Norway, and the people who worked to recover it. Imagine, me, interested in a book about art and museums. Who would've guessed?

I'm about half-way through. The book reads easily and moves quickly. There's a lot of good description, especially psychological description, of the main investigator in the case, Charley Hill of Scotland Yard. At one point, Charley has to study all he can about Munch's work, so that he can convince those in the art underworld that he knows what he's talking about if he gets a chance to purchase the painting. He also has to study what is known about The Scream itself so that he can identify it properly once he finds it.

One of the interesting things about the painting was the inspiration for it. Munch was walking with friends in Norway and suddenly saw this brilliant red sunset, which he felt was screaming. The painting was created in 1883 and scholars are trying to figure out whether Munch had witnessed the after effects of the eruption of the volcano on Krakatoa, which occurred on August 27, 1883. When the volcano blew and took the island with it, the ash went into the atmosphere and could be seen around the world during the next several months in the form of unusual sunsets. Munch physically felt a scream when he saw the sunset that inspired the painting. He also experienced periods of madness in his life, which leads me to wonder if he was a synesthete. Synesthetes have brains that mix the senses, hearing color, tasting sound & etc. Surely, if an island blows up, the shock wave would be like a scream and Edvard was sensitive enough to pick it up.

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