More of 'Scream' Artist's Works Stolen

OSLO, Norway (AP) - Three works by Edvard Munch were stolen from a hotel this weekend, the second theft of the renowned Norwegian's art in less than seven months.

A 1915 watercolor called "Blue Dress" and two lithographs were stolen from the walls of the restaurant of the stately Refnes Hotel near the city of Moss, about 30 miles south of Oslo, late Sunday, Jan Pedersen, of the local police, said by telephone.

Pedersen said he could not estimate the value of the works by the Norwegian painter, although art experts guessed it could be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. The watercolor, "Blue Dress," was a one of kind, and would account for bulk of the value.

Pedersen said a hotel worker had gone into the restaurant around 11 p.m. Sunday night and surprised two people who had removed the pictures from the wall.

"They dropped one, and broke the frame and glass, but took the picture," Pedersen said.

He said police are searching for the two men, who were describe as being in their 20s, of medium height and having dark hair.

It was the second such theft of Munch paintings in the Nordic country in less than seven months.

In August, the artist's masterpieces, "The Scream" and "Madonna," were stolen in a brazen daylight raid from an Oslo museum by three armed robbers, and have yet to be recovered.

"There are no grounds for assuming any connection between the thefts, but we will be talking to the Oslo police about it," said Pedersen.

Munch developed an emotionally charged painting style that was of great importance in the birth of the 20th century Expressionist movement. He died in 1944 at the age of 80.

The hotel's owner, Widar Salbuvik, said the works were part of a 400-piece collection, including another four by Munch, that are displayed in the restaurant. The hotel itself is part of an estate that was built in 1767.

The hotel is on the island of Jeloey, where Munch lived and worked from 1913 until 1916, when he moved to Oslo.

He said the works are not as famous as "The Scream" or "Madonna," but added they were well-known to collectors and Munch aficionados.

Salbuvik, who did not immediately return telephone calls, told state radio NRK that the pictures had been attached to the wall using museum mounts. He said the burglars ripped the frames from the walls, but it was unlikely the works were damaged.

There was an alarm system, but it wasn't turned on since the hotel had not yet closed for the night.

"It seems to be a fashion among criminals to steal Munch," said Salbuvik. "How professional is it to steal art? Great value, big risk and hard to sell. They would have to be very slow in the head to do it."

In 1994, another version of "The Scream" was stolen from the National Gallery in Oslo and was recovered a few months later in a sting operation.