The Scream
Edvard Much's The Scream

Norwegian Symbolist painter Edvard Munch's iconic painting The Scream has sold for a staggering £74m setting new records as the world's most expensive painting.

With this sale, the Scream breaks the previous record of Pablo Picasso's Nude, Green Leaves and Bust which sold for £66.4m in 2010.

The artwork was part of Sotheby's Impressionist & Modern Art sale in New York where bidding was dominated by two telephone bidders.

Munch created The Scream as the central element of his celebrated Frieze of Life series. Four versions of the painting were created by Munch.

The present work is the only one of the four versions which is not in a Norwegian museum. The artwork was sold by Norwegian Petter Olsen whose father was reportedly a friend and supporter of the artist. The current version of The Scream sold at Sotheby's is also regarded as one of the most sought-after as it also has a poem written in the artist's own hand about the work.

"I was walking along the road with two Friends / the Sun was setting - The Sky turned a bloody red / And I felt a whiff of Melancholy - I stood / Still, deathly tired - over the blue-black / Fjord and City hung Blood and Tongues of Fire / My Friends walked on - I remained behind / - shivering with Anxiety - I felt the great Scream in Nature - EM," the Telegraph quoted the poem mentioned on the artwork.

According to AFP, on two occasions, other versions of the painting have been stolen from museums, although both were recovered. Copies have adorned everything from student dorms to tea mugs and the work has the rare quality of being known to art experts and the general public alike.

The auction attracted around 800 people and camera crews from across the globe.

The Financial Times reported that the pastel on board Expressionist work, marked as lot 20 in an auction of 76 lots, had been expected by Sotheby's to fetch more than £49.43 million because of the image's worldwide fame and growing interest in the artist's work on the eve of next year's 150th anniversary of his birth. The overall sale brought £203.9 million, a record for an impressionist and modern sale.