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Halloween Special: Death in Art

As Halloween approaches, many people would like to add a little touch of the macabre to the décor. There are a variety of sinister themes and subjects that have fascinated artists throughout history. One of the most popular subjects to be captured on canvas is death. Death can be viewed in so many different ways and each artist brings it to life with their own technique. Here are a handful of pieces that might bring a little bit of both death and beauty into your home.

Egon Schiele-Death and the Maiden

One of Egon Schiele’s masterpieces, Death and The Maiden, also known as Der Tod und die Frau, was created in 1915-16. The original artwork was said to be inspired by the mythological abduction of Persephone by Hades, the god of the underworld. His style was a form of expressionism that often featured controversial imagery or symbolism of death. In 1918, Schiele died in Vienna just three days after the death of his pregnant wife Edith. His work continues to be exhibited throughout the world.

Edvard Munch-Death in the Sick Chamber

As a painter, Munch played a major role in the development of German Expressionism. Throughout his career, Munch’s paintings and print work covered dark themes such as sickness, misery and death. Death in a Sick Chamber, belongs to a series of paintings that were created when his younger brother was dying of tuberculosis. It has a very stark vision of what death in the family can look like.

Jacques-Louis David-The Death of Marat

In 1793, leading French revolutionary painter Jacques-Louis David immortalized the death of journalist Jean-Paul Marat in this painting, La Mort de Marat (The Death of Marat). 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.

Arnold Bocklin-Self-Portrait with Death as a Fiddler

Arnold Bocklin was a Swiss painter. Influenced by Romanticism, his painting style relied heavily on symbolist theory while incorporating mythological subjects. His pictures portray fantastical figures along with classical architecture constructions (often revealing an obsession with death) creating a strange and most often grim, fairty-tale world. That fascination with the dark is captured here in his companion, but with a light-hearted flair.

Paul Gauguin-Matamoe (Death), Landscape with Peacocks

This wonderful, simplistic, primitive scene of a tropical paradise was inspired by the artist’s first stay in Tahiti. The audience is given a slice of tropical life, in a cleared area of dense tropical forest with a hut and two figures beside it. There is also a man, cutting down a coconut tree in the foreground. It does not have the dark subtext one would expect from such a title. It is often thought that Gauguin painted this to represent the death of him as an Englishman, to be reborn as one of the natives of the tropics.

If you are looking for festive autumn decorations you can also browse our fall gallery for the perfect piece. We have a broad selection to fit any style and taste. Let us help you find the wall art you have been looking for.

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.