A volcanic eruption in The Scream?

Large volcanic eruptions spew large amounts of dust and sulphuric acid into the atmosphere. These can result in a lowering of the global temperatures for some time and can lead to spectacular twilights. Fine ash tends to scatter shorter blue-violet wavelengths of light, and the remaining spectrum getting through is dominated by longer wavelength red to orange portions of the spectrum.

So, if you're a painter, would you be enticed to paint such a strange sky?

The explosion from the Krakatau volcano in 1883 was so strong that it unleashed a 40-meter high tsunami and turned the global skies red for months. But is it also responsible for The Scream, the famous painting by Edvard Munch?
Munch painted The Scream in 1893, ten years after the volcano erupted in Indonesia. However, research has suggested that he was actually depicting the explosion, which would have been visible to him even in faraway Norway[1].

On January 1892, he wrote a poem in his diary:
Jeg gik bortover veien med to venner – solen gik ned – Jeg følte som et pust av vemod – Himmelen ble plutselig blodig rød – Jeg stanset, lænede meg til gjerdet mat til døden – så ut over de flammende skyerne som blod og sværd over den blåsvarte fjord og by – Mine venner gik videre – jeg sto der skjælvende av angst – og følte et stort uendelig skrik gjennom naturen.

I was walking along the road with two friends - the sun was setting - I felt a breath of melancholy - The sky suddenly became bloody red - I paused, leaned on the fence and feeling deadly tired – I saw over the fiery clouds like blood and swords over the blue-black fjord and the city - my friends were walking on - I stood there trembling with anxiety - and felt a huge endless scream through nature.

"The majority of those paintings reflect experiences that happened to Munch many years earlier," says Olson, lead researcher, "The death paintings are particularly clear. Death of the Mother and Death in the Sick Room, done in the 1890s, are based on the death of his mother in 1868 and the death of his sister in 1877. These experiences haunted him the rest of his life, as did the lurid, blood-red sky."

[1] Olsen et al: When the Sky Ran Red: The Story Behind The Scream in Sky & Telescope - 2003

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