10 Creepy Scary Drawings and Paintings That Will Give You Nightmares
There is a lot of incredible art in the world that celebrates how amazing and magical life is. But there are also a lot of dark and depressing artworks with just as big of an audience. These creepy scary drawings and paintings are what we want to focus on. You might think that’s a bit morbid, but many of these drawings resonate with our inner fears and nightmares.
Art can be terrifying. It can be creepy. It can scare the hell out of you. This is why it is such a subjective form of expression. What you think is horrifying might be appealing to somebody else. Art that taps into your subconscious reveals a lot about who you are.
Throughout the ages, there have been some creepy scary drawings that are sure to keep you up at night. From Renaissance art to modern marvels, here are 10 drawings and paintings from accomplished artists sure to give you a nightmare or two.
1. Picture of Dorian Gray by Ivan Albright
This is one horrifying image. The painting is inspired by Oscar Wilde’s 1891 novel The Picture of Dorian Gray. In it, Gray sells his soul so he will never age, but his true reflection is captured in a painting that gets more grotesque as Gray indulges in his hedonistic lifestyle. This painting by Ivan Albright perfectly captures Gray’s disfigured appearance as he stands in a haunting room with what appears to be bloody hands. This is a horrific image you can’t help but look at.
Fun fact: the actual painting appeared in the 1945 film adaptation.
2. Out Hunting for Teeth by Francisco Goya
Spanish artist Francisco Goya is responsible for some truly horrible drawings. This illustration is no different. Taken from his famous “Los Caprichos” series of 80 drawings, this picture is something else. The drawing depicts a witch pulling out the teeth of a deadman to use for her magic potions. The deadman also happens to be hanging from the roof. Probably not a drawing you want your kids to see.
This scary drawing is one of many created by Goya during his lifetime. He has others with horrible monsters and goblins, and some even show animals being sacrificed. Yuck.
3. The Nightmare by Henry Fuseli
The Nightmare is the most well known painting by Swiss artist Henry Fuseli. Mixing erotica with horror, the scary painting shows a woman who appears to be sleeping. Sitting on her chest is an incubus (a type of demon) who stares malevolently at the viewer. In the background is a horse’s head for some reason. The painting is meant to capture both dreaming and nightmares, creating a dark mood around the image.
There are many different interpretations of The Nightmare, with some saying it is an illustration of Fuseli’s sexual relationship with ex-partner Anna Landholdt. Others have said the painting is about bad dreams and evil spirits, while some say it focuses on the male libido. Fuseli never made any commentary on the painting, with its meaning forever up for debate.
4. The Scream by Edvard Munch
This is the artwork Edvard Munch is most well known for. The Scream is an eerie painting that looks like something out of a horror movie. The painting was Munch’s way of expressing feelings of anxiety and insecurity. Looking at the painting certainly cause a sense of unease, with the blood red sky detail adding a touch of dread to the painting.
5. The Ambassadors by Hans Holbein the Younger
At first glance, this painting looks like any other painting from the 16th century. It shows a couple of likely lads who appear to be explorers chilling with their equipment. Upon closer inspection, you will see that there is actually a skull at the bottom of the painting. It can only be clearly seen from a certain angle when up close. It represents memento mori, an artistic symbol meant to remind us that death is inevitable, but nobody is quite sure why Younger added it to this painting. Whatever the reason for the skull, it adds a layer of horror to this famous artwork.
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6. Skull of a Skeleton with Burning Cigarette by Vincent van Gough
Horror might not be the right word to use when describing this painting from Vincent van Gough. But it certainly is creepy. The oil painting is of a skeleton smoking a cigarette. Many believe it is a dig at the conservative practices of the Royal Academy of Fine Arts, where van Vough was studying. The painting is quite eye-catching and very haunting. There is just something about a skull with no eyes smoking a ciggie that is off-putting. This is a good painting to show kids to stop them from smoking.
7. The Garden of Earthly Delights by Hieronymus Bosch
This colorful painting is arguably the most famous creation by Dutch artist Hieronymus Bosch. It took Bosch 20 years to complete (from 1490-1510) and has been housed in the Museo del Prado in Madrid, Spain since 1939. The intriguing yet creepy triptych is very much influenced by the Bible. The first section shows Adam and Eve hanging out with God and the animals in the Garden of Eden. The middle illustration shows humans indulging in a hedonistic lifestyle as they eat the forbidden fruit and engage in pleasures of the flesh. The final panel shows Hell, with the sins of humanity bringing about the end of the world. This is an extremely depressing painting full of scary Biblical imagery.
8. Electric Chari by Andy Warhol
Nothing screams horror like an electric chair. This famous piece from pop culture icon Andy Warhol was produced in 1964. It is a screen-printed image that Warhol replicated many times using different colored paints. The photo Warhol used for this unique artwork was taken on January 13, 1953, at the death chamber at Sing Sing Prison in New York. It is the same electric chair that executed traitors Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, two American citizens found guilty of passing on secrets about the atomic bomb to the Russians during World War II.
9. The Judgment of Cambyses by Gerard David
A man being flayed alive is enough to give anyone nightmares, hence the reason it appears on this list. Painted by Gerard David, this drawing shows the horrible torture suffered by corrupt Persian judge Sisamnes at the order of Cambyses. The first panel focuses on Cambyses having Sisamnes arrested, while the second shows the horrible death he received. It’s quite a gross picture, as you can see the skin being pulled off poor Sisamnes leg. Another painting to keep away from the kids.
10. The Face of War by Salvador Dali
The majority of Salvador Dali’s artworks are creepy. The surreal artist had a habit of crafting freaky drawings, paintings, and sculptures that play on your mind. The Face of War is one such artwork inspired by the trauma of war. It was painted between the Spanish Civil War and the beginning of the Second World War. It features a disembodied head with smaller disembodied heads inside the eyes and mouth. It’s a haunting painting from the master of the surreal.
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