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Famous artists and their terrifying dark paintings

Alexander Alexeenko - 05.05.20

Scary, creepy and disturbing - the history of art is full of dark paintings, since death and horror have always been the motives that intrigued humanity. The main examples of terrifying and bizarre dark paintings and sculptures by famous artists dating from the Renaissance, when dark artistic expression freed itself from strict Christian dogma, but supported religious themes, and classical mythology as a source of inspiration and allegory.


With a depiction of biblical scenes full of violence and passionate sacrifices embodied in real human bodies, a tradition of dark paintings was built that lasts until modern art. From a large number of works with a painful and obscure subject, we made this alarming chronological selection of important and unforgettable masterpieces of painting relating to the terrible aspects of human existence and imagination.

1. Dark paintings of Hans Memling — Triptych of Earth Vanity and Divine Salvation

Hans Memling was a master of the German Renaissance, whose dark paintings were exceptional for their time. Although biblical allegory themes were common for the 15th century, his terrible paintings contained forbidden strong erotic feelings and truly terrifying images of death. Mortal sins frightened the living with a terrible reckoning.

The triptych about Earthly Vanity and Divine Salvation is part of a series of paintings that present the Allegory of True Love and the Allegory with the Virgin. It was a familiar home painting, designed to remain open and strengthen moral values ​​in everyday life, reminding people of the horrors of hell in dark paintings.

2. Dark paintings of Hieronymus Bosch — Garden of Earthly Delights

Garden of Earthly Delights is a typical triptych characteristic of its time. It is written by the Dutch artist Jerome Bosch, known for his dark paintings of the masters. Although it depicts heaven, earth and hell, it is named after the central and largest panel - the most intriguing and most controversial, but also not the longest period of human existence, human life on earth, and it represents the vanguard of a vision of surreal fantasy and vivid hallucinatory scenes that mixed in this world of horrors.

The three levels of the human condition are a hierarchical structure consisting of the highest level of god-like moral standards, conscious human actions and organized life, as well as the world of subconscious fantasies, fears, passions and morally and / or socially forbidden joy. Set out in the Bible and, in accordance with the values ​​of its time, these dark paintings shows a human destiny that undoubtedly led from paradise lost through the valley into the abyss of hell. His terrifying allegory is the eternal Memento Mori, and for five hundred years he has not ceased to captivate and scare the audience.

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