The Terrifying Face of Art

the terriffying face of art

“Art”- a word which has become so generic that it is used for conveying anything beyond the understanding of the ordinary, average, not-so-intellectual person.  The average person, when he hears the word, imagines a museum or an art gallery filled with beautiful still life, scenic beauty and models looking grave and sculptures so beautifully structured that it is unbelievable to us that they were made by humans. However, little do we think that art can be scary and disturbing too. This topic will be used to further prove my claim that art can be disturbing and not all art can be hung on the walls of your living rooms and marveled by your guests. Here are some of the terrifying paintings which will give you nightmares if they are the last thing you look at, before you go to sleep.


  • The Great Red Dragon and the Beast of the Sea- William Blake

great dragon

Known for his beautiful poems of The Songs of Innocence and Experience, who thought William Blake could scare people with this piece of art.


  • Saturn Devouring his Son- Francisco Goya


Apparently, Roman myth has taken the superiority of the father in the family to a whole new level of gory, merciless and downright disturbing painting of Saturn, the Father of Gods devouring his own son so that he cannot usurp him and take his position. Well, that may have actually struck some fear into rebelling children in Rome, to say the least.


  • The Nightmare- Henry Fuseli


This painting has become quite a symbol for rape, and bestiality. The woman laying down in an almost death-like trance with the demon sitting on her bosom and the creepy horse in the back just takes the cake. Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein has suggestive references to this painting when the monster kills Victor Frankenstein’s wife, Elizabeth.


  • Hell- Hans Memling

hell hans

Those of us who have had the fortune of reading James Joyce‘s Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man would remember the preaching scene where the preacher constantly talks about how there is no redemption once you reach the gates of Hell. This painting captures the essence of that speech in a very disturbing and scary way. That ought to knock some kindness into people, I hope.


  • The Flaying of Marsyas- Titian


The Satyr of Marsyas was tortured by flaying or peeling off his skin inch by inch. It is a gory description of the punishment he received after losing a musical contest with Apollo. A Satyr, that is, half-man, half-horse; is also a symbol for being different and for those of us who like to view things from a new light, this may take a transition from mere myth to society shunning the “different” into a world of mental and physical anguish.

Art, may not be always inviting and pleasant to the senses but there is no denying that to put a story or myth in a visual takes a beautiful imagination. And making the end result scary, by capturing the essence of the scene, takes a whole lot of work.


Neha Tanwar

Team StoryMirror


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