Anyone who has ever felt the urge to bite on a custard cream - and who amongst us has not, especially in these testing times - will have sympathy for artist Edward Scream whose 1963 masterpiece - The Munch - is about to go on [socially distanced] display at Fontwell Magna's Royal Academy of Folk Art.
Something of a coup for the Gallery - and made possible only by a generous grant from the Royston Binstock Foundation with additional support from the Friends of Edward Scream Society - The Munch has, astonishingly never been on public display before. Securing its loan and devising strategies for its safe viewing have proved a major headache - and a major achievement - for the Gallery, many of whose staff continue to work from home. Internal security guard Hans Orf-Dontuchem - normally an imposingly statuesque figure lurking in the Gallery's Late 20th Century Portrait Room - is amongst those who have found the lockdown and recent gallery reopening most challenging. "Since I can't go into the building but still have responsibility for the care of the pictures, it's required a lot of ingenuity and resource on my part. But it hasn't stopped me putting on my uniform everyday, standing by the mantlepiece for 8 hours and ringing up to see if anything's been pinched during my shift".
Similarly, art restorer Deli-Kate Tuchuppe who, unable to access the state of the art curation facilities in the RAFA's Amanda J Threadbone Suite has been "making do" with a Revlon Colorstay Gel-Envy nailpolish kit, a Dulux 12" roller and a Humbrol Number 6 duckegg-blue. "It's OK for the early 20th century primitives", she explains, "their brushwork wasn't much cop, but it's harder with something like a Scream. I'm not saying he could paint, but there's evidence he did have access to a Winsor & Newton Series 7 Kolinsky Sable 000 Water Colour Brush - and that's a hard one to emulate with the Dulux".
Famous as it is - The Munch was once used by the Threadbone Heavy Chemicals Group in his adverts for their "Mm ... It's Delicious Inorganic Foods" Campaign and found its way into every Dorset home with a television in the 1990s - the painting has remained in a private collection since the year of its creation, 1963. The origins of the work continue to intrigue; and though the artist himself once told an over-inquisitive critic that it was the result of an unexpected encounter with a scotch bonnet at the Taj Mahal-McKnightly Curry House Restaurant and Indian Take-Away, Tarrant Gunville [just off the the A354; open Mon-Sat 12-3pm and 6-10.30pm; last orders 10pm], art historians have been quick to dismiss the explanation as a typical bit of Scream misdirection.
"He once told another friend that he'd just cracked a molar on a bit of peanut brittle, but we're treating that one with a pinch of salt as well. The thing is, with a work as multi-layered as The Munch, its very hard to say with certainty what particular comestible it's celebrating. Clearly, something has been consumed by the figure in question but precisely what we'll probably never know. I had wondered about an unsoftened Toffo ... they could certainly take you by surprise".
The Scream goes on show today - 1st October - for two weeks. Since Fontwell Magna is subject to a fortnight's CONTRIK-69 "Circuit Breaker", the gallery will be closed until 15th October. Socially distanced online viewing is recommended [no more than 6 simultaneous viewing permitted]. The Fontwell Magna's Royal Academy of Folk Art operates a strict "No view, still pay" policy.