ART HI-LIGHT(s): Halloween Edition

Five Creepy Artworks: An Assemblage

Perhaps you can’t quite stomach The Haunting, but a few still images of artwork should be okay, right? Below is a brief compilation of six pieces I find exceptionally eerie. The works range from contemporary art to early Netherlandish painting. Make sure to grab some office candy before you settle down to read this.

Leon Cociña, Cristóbal León & Niles Atallah, Lucia, 2007

LUCIA from Diluvio on Vimeo.

For full effect, make sure your volume is way up. This video gives me the heebie-jeebies so I could only watch it a few times before writing this post. Lucia is the first part of a series of videos entitled Lucia, Luis y el Lobo. This Chilean collective of filmmakers/artists shoot the film frame by frame with a digital photo camera. Throughout the piece, the artists layer charcoal, soil, flowers, found objects, and cardboard in a way that produces movement. The hushed and childlike voice of the narrator coupled with the room’s animation creates a horrifying tale of a girl fleeing a monster.

Francis Bacon, Painting, 1946

Image: Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY

I could have chosen almost any of Francis Bacon’s paintings from the late 1940’s to 1960’s to take this scary spot. The Irish-born British artist often uses cow carcasses in his work, a fascination from his childhood. In this painting, Bacon painted a dead body in the shape of a crucifix. The central figure is dressed finely in a suit while also obscuring his face under an umbrella. A fleshy and jagged smirk reveals the sinister nature behind the elegant costume. As in many of Bacon’s paintings, this pink and black artwork is likely a dark critique of a public figure for their hypocrisy and crimes. Whoever the person is, it is not someone you want walking behind you on a rainy London evening.

Francisco Goya, Saturn, 1820-1823

Image: Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, Spain

No list of disturbing artworks could be complete without Francisco Goya. It was hard to choose one work because, like Bacon, Goya created many paintings that unveil the darkest parts of humanity. I picked the painting, Saturn because I vividly remember experiencing its horror projected in a dark room full of aspiring art historians. The brushstrokes portray the Greek mythical figure of Titan Cronus (a.k.a Saturn) sitting on his throne and eating each of his children for fear of being overthrown. This artwork is from a series of 14 paintings called, Black Paintings or Pinturas Negras. He started painting the series on the walls of his home at the age of 71 and never meant to display them publicly. The dark canvases reflect the terror he witnessed during the Napoleonic Wars, his ailing health, and his gloomy perspective on human nature.

Henry Fuseli, The Nightmare, 1781

Image: Detroit Institute of Art, Detroit, Michigan

This painting by Henry Fuseli is genuinely the work of nightmares. The artist paints a woman lying restlessly on her bed while a perched incubus rests on her stomach. Definitions of an incubus vary but basically, it is a legendary demon that descends upon sleeping women and has sexual intercourse with them. Need I go on? How many scary movies or T.V shows have you seen where villains or monsters emerge from underneath the bed? Countless. It is a terrifying idea and even worse if it’s a demon. Other definitions of incubus use the word as a synonym for a nightmare. Fuseli may have included the horse (mare) in the composition to remind viewers that the painting’s subject is a nightmare and also to alleviate some of the overtly sexual nature of the work.

Hieronymus Bosch, The Garden of Earthly Delights Triptych
1490 – 1500

Image: Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid Spain

I’m closing this article on a disturbing note.  The cropped image above is from Hieronymus Bosch’s panel, The Garden of Earthly Delights Triptych. Specifically, the scene portrays the bottom right panel and is the artist’s depiction of The Last Judgment or Hell. Bosch takes great pains to paint the damned souls seduced by sin in elaborate detail. Animals punish humans, demons endlessly torture naked flesh, and objects symbolic of genitalia/sex are scattered throughout. This crowded interpretation of Hell contrasts with the other two bright panels depicting Eden and The Garden. The full triptych is available at the link below.

Do you have a favorite creepy artwork that I missed? If so, please share them with us below!


Interested in learning more? Check out the links below for people, places, and artworks referenced in this article.

Leon Cociña, Cristóbal León & Niles Atallah

Francis Bacon, Painting, 1946

Francisco Goya, Saturn, 1820-1823

Henry Fuseli, The Nightmare, 1781

Hieronymus Bosch, The Garden of Earthly Delights Triptych
1490 – 1500

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