As Halloween draws dauntingly closer, I wanted to delve deeper into the unnerving, darker side of art that has haunted us over the centuries.
The beauty of art is that it’s subjective, we make our own minds up on what we see. But some artworks you can’t un-see. There is no choice than to be involuntarily repulsed and automatically respond with remarks like “That’s some f****d up s**t”.
These 6 artworks I’ve selected have given me such a response. From a father gorging on his own son, a mysterious horse with crazy eyes and a bunch of clowns tied and chopped up. Need I say more.
Bacon has always been a bit of a question mark, which makes his work, even today, more alluring, exciting and unique. However, I can be certain that his three studies above are MESSED UP. Just look into those tortured, gaping mouths, writhing and distraught in agony. The title is a religious one and refers to those at the foot of the cross in paintings, but Bacon was referring to the despairing state of the world and humanity after the Holocaust.
“Saturn Devouring His Son“, 1819-1823
Utterly horrifying and completely grotesque (you’re welcome), Goya depicts the Greek myth of Saturn, fearing one of his sons would over throw him, feasting on his flesh. There is a feral madness in Saturn’s widened white eyes. This work is part of the 14 black paintings series and may have been inspired by Peter Paul Rubens‘ 1636 painting of the same name. Make your own mind up on which is more f****d up.
“Anatomical Pieces”, 1819
Part of a gruesome series of chopped up body parts, including severed heads, this is just stomach churning to look at, and yet your eyes are fixated in the shapes and contortions dead flesh makes, the ruby red tones of blood. And with the meat cloth drooping over what I can only imagine is an arm, you feel as though this is just butchered meat ready to be cooked and eaten. Perhaps what’s more horrifying is Géricault used real life limbs from the Paris Morgue to sketch and paint from.
“The Nightmare“, 1782
An iconic horror piece, Fuseli’s painting created a sensation when it was first exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1782. No one really knows what’s going on in this painting. The imp could be nightmare personified, weighing down on the woman who is spread in a way that could express sexual desire . The crazy-eyed horse watching over the scene from the shadows, only adds to this bizarre and unnerving piece.
Jake and Dinos Chapman
“Great deeds against the dead”, 2003
Obsessed by Goya’s ‘The Disasters of War’ series, Jake and Dinos Chapman have repurposed this image to shock us further. No one likes clowns, especially those strung up, mutilated and murdered. But I don’t know what’s more horrific, these spine-chilling clowns or the fact that the Chapman brothers purchased Goya’s original mint condition print collection and systematically defaced them with clown and puppy heads?
Naked witches brewing, nightmarish skeletal creatures, and a lifeless man hanging limp from a dead tree; Rosa’s interpretation of the occult is wretchedly horrific. The foreground is lit to illuminate the scene with a bit too much clarity for my liking. I’ll never want to know what hides under the white sheet.