Art

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Art With a Dark Side

“There is no beauty without some strangeness.”-Edgar Allen Poe

As Halloween approaches, some people would like to create a frightening atmosphere in their house to match that of the holiday. It is an opportunity to embrace what is both beautiful and dark. Choose one of these mysterious works of art and you might find you like the shadowy ambiance all year long.

1.      Dante and Virgil by William-Adolphe Bouguereau

This painting, Dante and Virgil, is based on a short but vicious scene in the Inferno. Uncharacteristically dark in subject, it’s a terrible departure from this painter’s typically beautified nymph-like figures. It is often compared to artwork by Rafael, but has a rich beauty all its own. The struggle of the two main characters in Dante’s inferno are captured in detail, with strong vibrant colors to match the mood of the story. One can’t help but feel the tension with this in the room.

2.      Judith Beheading Holofernes by Michelangelo da Caravaggio

Judith Beheading Holofernes is a beautiful baroque masterpiece by Carvaggio. His paintings, which combine a realistic observation of the human state, both physical and emotional, with a dramatic use of lighting, had a formative influence on other artists of his time. This piece depicts the story from the book of Judith, about a widow who is able to enter the tent of her enemy and slay him while he sleeps. Revenge can be served sweetly in front of guests.

3.      The Death of Marat by Jacques-Louis David

David sought to imbue Marat with some of the sacred qualities given to religious martyrs and give credence to the revolutionary causes for which he fought by painting him in the style of Michelangelo’s Pieta  and Caravaggio’s Entombment of Christ. His use of dramatic lighting and idealized subject give off a sense of tragic sacrifice.

4.      Death and the Maiden by Egon Schiele

This piece of expressionist art was said to be inspired by the mythological abduction of Persephone by Hades, the god of the underworld. The two figures are desperately clinging to each other, even as they appear to spin out of control. Dark, earthy tones give it a sense of realism even though the shapes make it appear more like a dream or a nightmare. It is a piece that is hard to look away from.

5.      Vampire by Edvard Munch

Also known as Love and Pain, this piece by Edvard Much shows the natural connections between painting and passion. In it, a woman is shown kissing a man’s neck while her fiery red head swirls around them. This could easily be interpreted as a man giving in to a Vampire’s will. It is a gothic image for those who want to find romance in the darkness.

6.      FRAGILE Handle With Care by Adrian Borda

Sometimes the heart can be a strange and grotesque thing. Borda captures that in this painting of someone’s broken heart, pierced by love’s arrow. The Fragile tag on it adds a sense of dark humor that many people would appreciate. This is the kind of piece that will be a great conversation starter even after Halloween is over.

7.      Witches in the Air by Francisco Goya

This is one of six paintings he created related to the theme of Witchcraft. The figures floating above the main subject seem to be taunting him as he passes. It’s clear to see just how hauntingly beautiful the paintings from Goya’s dark period really were. Despite the mystery and tension found in this scene, it’s also breathtakingly beautiful thanks to the incredible skill and technique employed. You can enjoy both the whimsy and magic created by this subject.

8.      The Scream by Edvard Munch

For many, the swirling colors and look of desperation perfectly represents the torment and frustration of modern life. . Throughout his career, Munch’s paintings and print work covered dark themes such as sickness, misery and death. This is a milder piece that will still make you feel sympathy for the poor, troubled subject

9. Skull of a Skeleton with Burning Cigarette by Vincent Van Gogh

This project, done by Van Gogh as a school project to study anatomy, is uniquely different than his other works. Although the cigarette in the skulls mouth could be taken as some type of symbolism it was really just a piece of Van Gogh’s youthful humor. If you look closely, you might see that the skull is smiling at you.

10. Self-Portrait with Death as a Fiddler by Arnold Bocklin

In this painting the artist depicts a mythological creature, such as death in a very mundane setting. He has death playing the fiddle for him, which is hardly frightening, yet seeing him portray by a fleshless skeleton would send shivers down the audience’s backs. Only the artist is unaware of what stands behind him, but you wouldn’t want to spoil the surprise.

Amanda Hadley

About the Author

Amanda graduated from the University of Kansas, where she studied English literature and got a masters degree in library sciences. She enjoys reading, cooking and playing with her nephews. Her best friend is her little dog Brady.