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The insider's guide to 'The Scream'

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(CNN) -- Everything you need to know about "The Scream," Edvard Munch's agonized portrait of existential anxiety which is back on show in Oslo -- for now.

"The Scream" -- that's the painting that was stolen isn't it?

Yes, the iconic portrait was stolen from the Munch Museum in Oslo, Norway, two years ago. But it was recovered by police, along with "Madonna," another missing Munch masterpiece stolen in the same raid, last month.

So now the paintings are safely back on public display?

Only until Sunday. Although experts said they were in a better condition than had been expected, both suffered slight damage as a result of the robbery and are being taken away for renovation expected to last more than a year. So get to Oslo quick if you want to see them anytime soon.

This isn't the first time this sort of thing has happened is it?

Ahem, no. In 1994 another version of "The Scream" was snatched from Norway's National Gallery, also in Oslo, by thieves armed with wire cutters and a ladder. That version was recovered two months later in a sting operation after the Norwegian government refused a $1 million ransom demand.

Hang on, there's more than one of these?

Munch painted four versions of "The Scream" in 1893. The Munch Museum has two, the National Gallery one and Norwegian shipping billionaire Petter Olsen owns the final one.

To lose one Munch might be considered unfortunate, but to lose two...

Actually the raid in 2004 was worthy of a heist movie. Two gunmen in balaclavas walked into the gallery, holding a security guard at gunpoint and forcing dozens of visitors to lie on the floor. They then ripped the paintings from the walls, pulling off the frames to remove electronic tagging devices, before making their escape in a waiting getaway car.

Were they caught?

Three men were convicted for their role in robbery earlier this year including the getaway driver, receiving prison sentences of up to eight years. But both gunmen are still at large.

So why is this Munch guy so popular with art thieves?

It might have had something to do with the fact the stolen painting was valued at something between $60 million and $75 million. But they obviously didn't think about the impossible problem of selling on one of the world's most recognizable art treasures.

$75 million? It looks like a load of swirly blobs to me.

Munch is considered one of the most influential figures of the late 19th-early 20th century expressionist movement. The Scream, part of a series called "Frieze of Life," brings together many of his favourite themes: sickness, death, anxiety and love. Munch was inspired to paint the work after taking a walk at sunset one evening and hearing "a great unending scream piercing through nature."

Those long Norwegian nights must have been getting to him.

Munch experts now believe he probably suffered from manic depression for most of his creative career. "Sickness, insanity and death were the angels that surrounded my cradle and they have followed me throughout my life," he once said cheerily. Art critic Robert Hughes wrote: "His relentless and self-absorbed despair makes everyone else's spleen look almost kittenish. Hell, you realize, could be defined as being locked in a small room with Edvard Munch for all eternity and certainly it seemed that way to Munch himself."

The version of "The Scream" back on display in the Munch Museum this week.





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