Scary Art from Art History

Utagawa Kuniyoshi, Takiyasha the Witch and the Skeleton Specter c. 1844 © Wikimedia Commons

Happy Halloween! It’s the spookiest time of the year, and Artsper is taking a look at the eeriest and scariest paintings from the past. From Impressionism to Pop Art, it seems as if all types of artists have an inkling to depict the more macabre side of life. Take a look at this scary art that will send a chill up your spine…

Francisco Goya: Saturn Devouring His Son

Scary art - Francisco Goya, Saturn Devouring His Son
Francisco Goya, Saturn Devouring His Son, c. 1819–1823, © Wikimedia Commons

Between 1819 and 1823, Francisco Goya created his 14 part series called Black Paintings, a collection of haunting artworks. The most frightening of these is undoubtedly his painting Saturn Devouring His Son. This depicts the Greek myth of the Titan Cronus, a story in which a father eats each of his children fearing one of them will overthrow him.

Edvard Munch: The Scream

Scary art - Edvard Munch, The Scream
Edvard Munch, The Scream, 1891 © Wikimedia Commons

Skrik, in its original Norwegian title, and the German title Der Schrei der Natur, are other titles for the painting most commonly referred to as The Scream. Created by Norwegian impressionist Edvard Munch in 1893, the portrait of an agonized face is one of the most recognizable paintings in the world, its fame for being the fourth most expensive painting ever bought at auction. The Scream has become to symbolize the anxiety of human existence. If you would like to know more about this iconic painting, check out our article on it here.

Frida Kahlo: Girl with Death Mask (She Plays Alone)

Scary art - Frida Kahlo, Girl with Death Mask (She Plays Alone)
Frida Kahlo, Girl with Death Mask (She Plays Alone), 1938 © Wiki Art

This lesser-known painting by Frida Kahlo is a self-portrait of the artist, depicting herself as she was during her childhood. This particular piece is especially haunting and creepy. Young Frida stands alone in a barren landscape, holding a single yellow flower and wearing a Day of the Dead skull, with another frightening mask at her face. The painting is chilling to look at, and conveys a real sense of loneliness and isolation. 

Andy Warhol: Big Electric Chair

Andy Warhol, Big Electric Chair
Andy Warhol, Big Electric Chair, 1967 © Wikimedia Commons

This Warhol is a classic silk screen painting with an unusual subject matter. Created in 1967, the artist used an image taken from a photograph of an empty execution chamber. The subject matter of death became very popular for the artist when he began his series Death and Disasters in 1962. The emptiness and coldness of the photo makes it particularly eerie.

Henry Fuseli: The Nightmare

Henry Fuseli, The Nightmare
Henry Fuseli, The Nightmare, 1781 © Wikimedia Commons

This painting created in 1781 by Henry Fuseli is aptly named The Nightmare. It depicts a woman asleep being preyed upon by a demon which perches on her sleeping body. The painting depicts innate fears about the subconscious and the vulnerability of sleep – creating in one image the visualization of a living nightmare. One of the artist’s most famous works, it is sure to leave you with a feeling of unease. And if you would like to read more about dreams within art, check out our article on it here.

And there you have it – some of Artsper’s top picks of our most frightening and chilling artworks from the past. Are you a fan of scary art, and if so which one of these paintings do you find the most frightening?

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