Edvard Munch's 'The Scream' may not actually be screaming at all

The Scream is one of the most famous images in the world (as well as becoming the face of a 90s horror movie franchise).

But if you see a man screaming when you look at it, you may have been looking at it all wrong.

Curators at the British Museum, where a black and white lithograph of Edvard Munch's masterpiece has now been installed, say it doesn't show someone emitting a scream at all.

In fact, they say actually depicts someone hearing one.

The revelation comes from a small inscription by Munch on the lithograph which is missing from the better-known coloured-in version, and which references Munch's inspiration for creating it.

Exhibition curator Giulia Bartrum described how the image depicts an experience Munch had while walking by a fjord overlooking Oslo in 1892, when the sky turned blood red.

The inscription reads: “I felt the great scream throughout nature.”

"The figure is holding the hands to the ears as if blocking off the scream," she added.

"The fact that the mouth is in the shape of a 'O', an 'ah' sound, doesn't necessarily mean at all that he's actually screaming. It's what he's hearing, and it's kind of shaking his whole body."

The inscription reads: 'I felt the great scream throughout nature.' Credit: PA

The debate over whether The Scream shows a man screaming or hearing a scream has raged for decades, but the director of the Munch Museum in Oslo, Stein Olav Henrichsen, said the British Museum was correct.

"There are lots of comments on this work, but we have Munch’s own words and this is someone covering their ears as they hear nature screaming," he told the Telegraph.

“But we do not mind at all if people interpret it in different ways."

The lithograph is one of the main attractions in an exhibition of prints by the Norwegian artist, who died in 1944.

Prints were how Munch made his name as an artist, and the exhibition is centred around this aspect of his work as well as his depiction of raw human emotion.

It will be the largest exhibition of his prints in the UK for 45 years.

Edvard Munch: Love And Angst will open on April 11 and run until July 21.