Edvard Munch, was a Norwegian who did most of his painting in Berlin. His work was influenced by Gauguin, and Van Gogh and carries a pessimistic view of the human condition. The Scream is an image of fear, the terrifying, unreasoned fear we feel in a nightmare, the fear of losing one's mind. Unlike Goya, Munch visualizes this experience without the aid of frightening apparitions, and his achievement is more persuasive for that very reason. The rhythm of the long wavy lines seems to carry the echo of the scream into every corner of the picture, making the earth and sky one great sounding board of fear. The painting shows the frustration found in people of the late 19th century caused by a world gone mad. The artist specialized in portraying extreme emotions like jealousy, sexual desire and loneliness. He aimed to induce a strong reaction in his viewers, saying "I want to paint pictures that will make people take off their hats in awe, the way they do in church." Munch was a forerunner of Expressionism, a style that portrayed emotions through distorting form and color.

Today the painting is famous as a cliché for high anxiety (it is often used in advertising) but when it was first exhibited it caused such an uproar that the Berlin exhibit of 1892 was closed. However a group of young artists broke from the artist's association and formed the Berlin Succession. Such groups quickly formed all over Europe with the purpose of raising the level of arts and crafts, perhaps the beginnings of Art Nouveau.