Scary and Creepy Paintings From History


As fascinating as it is to study the world of ancient arts, sometimes it can get a tad creepy. Art has been an integral part of the cultural development of our species. It has been found in every culture and civilization that has passed in one form or another. And being such an important piece of our history it has been nearly always used to portray some kind of event to try to evoke a particular emotion in response. As such it is of no surprise that some of these pieces of art can depict a rather unsettling scenario.

In this post we are going to list just a few of these artworks, paintings to be exact. These are all historically famous paintings by renowned painters that portray a scene that is creepy, spooky, and in all senses of the word, scary. So let’s get started and go through the visual representations of some weird and creepy stuff people have thought up.

The Garden of Earthly Delights

Made by Hieronymus Bosch “The Garden of Earthly Delights” is actually a three paneled work. However, it is the right panel of the painting that suits this list. The first two panels are beautiful depictions of what is possibly Heaven, with people shown to be relaxing and having a wonderful time. The third panel suddenly completely flips the switch; it is suddenly night time and people are shown being terrified and eaten by ungodly monstrosities while cities burn in the background. It is believed this is Bosch’s depiction of Hell and his warnings for people living a sinful life, though we cannot be sure since this is from centuries ago. Whatever his intent might have been we can all agree that none of us would want to visit the hellscape Bosch cooked up.

Anatomical Pieces

This one is just sick to look at. It is literally a painting of severed limbs piled together. Théodore Géricault actually borrowed human limbs from a morgue to paint this for who knows what reason. What he was trying to portray, if anything at all, is going to remain a mystery. What he accomplished by doing this is also an unanswered question. All we know is that there are some really sick paintings out there and this one is right up there with them.

The Ghost of Kohada Koheiji 

The Ghost of Kohada Koheiji 

Made by Katsushika Hokusai this Yūrei-zu (Japanese genre of art about supernatural beings painted on woodblocks) depicting a skeletal man is one creepy work of art. The legend this painting brings to life is about an actor that was murdered. The painting shows the part of the legend where the actor returns back to life – in a sort of a way at least – to haunt his still living wife and the new man she has fallen in love with. The withered nose, crooked grin, and eyelid lacking eye sockets coupled with the sinew of skin still clinging to the actor makes him a real eyesore and fuel for nightmares. Still, Katsushika Hokusai himself must be commended for an excellent job in making an already terrifying legend even more so.

The Nightmare

Made in 1781 by Henry Fuseli ‘The Nightmare’ is a terrifying painting of a woman fast asleep in a vulnerable pose while a demonic incubus sits atop her. Oh and there’s a horse with pupil-less eyes in the background just staring at them too. ‘The Nightmare’ gained extreme popularity when it was first unveiled and has been interpreted in many different forms. The general consensus is that the painting portrays the real world – where a woman is sleeping – as well as the contents of her dream. The painting may also be taken as a representation of sleep paralysis, especially as having a demonic entity sitting on your chest is a common experience in sleep paralysis.

The Face of War 

Painted by famous Spanish artist Salvador Dali this painting is a horrific insight into the emotions of an individual that has experienced war. It’s hard to decide which part is more goosebumps inducing; the snakes biting the face, the endless stream of similar faces inside the mouth and eye sockets, or just the miserable expression of pure agony and helplessness itself. Overall all those things combine to make a truly unsettling image and make this painting a worthy addition to the list.

Saturn Devouring His Son

Another painting by a Spanish artist, this one named Francisco Goya, ‘Saturn Devouring His Son’ is a very famous painting that was based on the Greek myth of the titan named Cronus. Cronus, Romanized to Saturn, feared his children might one day overthrow him. His response to this was the completely rational action of eating each one at birth. The creepy, and rather sad, part of this painting is not just Saturn’s desperate agonized face or his dead half-eaten son, but also the fact that this painting is part of Goya’s 14 Black Paintings. As Goya got on in years he started to get more cynical as well as terrified of his own mortality. His house’s once brightly painted walls were painted over with dark unsettling images that went on to be known as the 14 Black Paintings. These paintings were discovered after Goya’s demise and transferred to canvas and named.


And there you have it; the darker side of our history with art. Sure these might be unsettling to look at or comprehend but they still hold important place in the world of art. Now if you’re looking for a cheerier read after this we would suggest going with A Guide to Ancient Greek Music or Famous Paintings and the Stories Behind Them.

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