spooky art

Monsters and Death Masks: A Haunting History of Spooky Art

From genuine criminal offense to haunted homes to the unlimited dramatization of serial killers, men and women love experience scared (at least on their personal terms), a creepy fascination that extends to spooky art. And with Halloween appropriate around the corner, the proof of our collective enjoy for discovering psychological boundaries abounds. Horror motion picture evenings with near good friends. The eerie zombie graveyard having more than the neighbor’s garden. The adrenaline hurry we encounter is some thing we’re hardwired to relish and seek out.

So how do we outline scary art? Is it an environment? An ominous palette? The retelling of a horrifying tale? Do we recoil at the sight of monsters? Or at the reminder of our own mortality? In a chilling celebration of the period, let us get a glimpse at spooky art by means of a historical lens and see how it influences modern day artists here at Artrepreneur.

Horror in Ancient Greece

The historic Greeks utilized at least three diverse words to explain dread, each and every with its individual distinct nuance. The phrase that Aristotle utilised most often, phoberon, is derived from a root that means to operate absent, a descriptor that beautifully captures our animal brains staying coerced into a struggle or flight reaction. One more term, phrike, signifies tremor or shivering, and it shares the similar stem as the verb to tremble, yet another great interpretation of the physicality inherent in panic.

These terms had been commonly utilized in historic tragedies, which fed our earliest fascination for all issues blood and gore. From Homer’s terrifying Gorgon, whose deal with was so hideous it turned adult men into stone, to Odysseus’ journey to Hades and the blood sacrifice of a ram to return house, these tales captured the creativeness and were reflected almost everywhere in the visible landscape. In fact, we can however look at ceramics, statues, and ancient murals retelling these tales, allowing for us a glimpse into what stoked panic in the historic earth.


spooky art
The Gorgons of historical Greece embellished are depicted as architectural motifs as
very well as in ceramics and metalwork.

Early Depictions of Dying in Christian Catacombs

Our most typical anxiety is 1 that is shared virtually universally: the panic of loss of life. And nonetheless it is a little something that, irrespective of status or impact, no a single is capable to steer clear of. Maybe it is for this motive that there is this kind of an overlap between demise and aesthetics.

In the fifth century CE, early Roman Christians buried their members in catacombs adorned with a repertoire of predominantly Biblical imagery. But curiously, the images chose not to target on the decline of the dwelling. As a substitute, the operate expresses the deep-seated hope that we and our cherished ones might just one working day be resurrected. Even past the grave, our panic of demise designs our cultural ethos and values, a phenomenon that influences most of us, irrespective of our religious affiliations.


Vanitas and Memento Mori

From fantastical monsters to boldly placed symbols reminding us of our very own mortality, there is no shortage of spooky art imagery in the classical canon.

“Vanitas” (derived from a passage in the Ebook of Ecclesiastes, Vainness of vanities, all is vainness) and “Memento Mori” (which will come from a Latin phrase which means Bear in mind you need to die) are continue to lifes exclusively focused to reminding us of human frailty and fragility. Equally lovely and macabre, these genres typically involve symbols such as skulls and extinguished candles to tantalize the eye and stir the soul. The main change amongst the two? Though both equally rely on common symbols of demise, vanitas will also involve far more frivolous imagery, these kinds of as musical instruments or textbooks, to remind us of the self-importance — or worthlessness — of worldly pleasures.

Monsters in Classical Artwork

How do we determine a monster? It’s a enjoyable notion to check out: monsters exist in historical religions and lore, although real are living monsters can terrorize a group and dominate a news cycle.

In Goya’s celebrated Saturn Devouring his Son, we see a father (Saturn) consuming his own offspring out of panic that he may well 1 working day be overthrown. In Hieronymus Bosch’s The Back garden of Earthly Delights, we come upon hundreds of not possible creatures that alert us of an unlucky afterlife must we be consumed with passion, enjoyment, and other superficialities. And in Artemisia Gentileschi’s Judith Slaying Holofernes, we see a vengeful girl decapitating a violent male, a story from the Old Testament that also facilitated the artist’s individual second of revenge: it is speculated that the male figure is truly a portrait of the man who raped her when she was 17.

Whilst these particular mentions are considerably from exhaustive, they begin to paint a image of how individuals have collectively perceived monsters — and feared them  — all over historical past.

The Victorians: The Best Masters of Spooky Artwork

If there was anyone who’s embraced a fascination with demise, it was the Victorians. In reality, historians have even coined a certain phrase, “the cult of loss of life,” in purchase to improved characterize the ethos of the time.

Demise pictures (which is, in point, a further iteration of memento mori) attained prominence in the mid-nineteenth century when the artwork kind was starting to be more and more popular and cost-effective. Entire people would pose collectively, such as those who experienced not too long ago passed, developing eerie portraits that appear to be to exist in a liminal room. Stranger but? The useless would often be in sharper focus, a result of the very long exposure time that was expected to just take a photograph and, of training course, their incapacity to move.

The Victorians also designed bespoke artworks and decorative items from locks of hair, arranging them in an elaborate manner for wall ornamentation and even wearing them in lockets and rings. Likenesses had been also captured in sensible “death masks” that had been historically established with wax.

Whilst spooky for some, it could possibly be argued that the Victorian preoccupation with death was, in actuality, a balanced way to approach and integrate the inevitable. From literal “death beds” that aimed to give convenience and a remaining going to location to working with a Spiritualist medium to commune with the useless, dying shaped the aesthetics, working day-to-working day things to do, and cultural dialogue of the time.



Horror in Present day Art

Our preoccupation with dread and horror has not waned around the yrs. In point, with the arrival of new technologies like images, movie, and even video clip video games, it appears to be we have much more possibilities to bring about our anxiety reaction than at any time in advance of.

This retains genuine in the classical artwork canon, as nicely.

Damien Hirst’s iconic shark, preserved in formaldehyde with jaws agape, problems us to look at death. Even the title, The Physical Impossibility of Demise in the Head of An individual Living, speaks to how the collective’s considering has altered since the Victorian era. Even when confronted with a lifeless animal, our worry of demise refuses to make it possible for us to admit our own unavoidable destiny.

In his Death and Disasters series, Andy Warhol took inspiration from everyday horrors printed in the regional papers. Car or truck crashes, electrical chairs, and even cans of tuna fish are taken off from their journalistic context and cropped, allowing for the artist to investigate how visual data can be altered to express new meanings.

Horror can even are living in the mind of the artist. The notorious serial killer John Wayne Gacy, who also moonlighted as a clown-for-employ the service of, created get the job done even though he was on dying row. The deranged paintings are nevertheless a sizzling ticket merchandise for contemporary collectors, despite their crude execution.

Spooky Art from Artrepreneur Collections

Is this fast tour through art history getting you fired up for further spooky artwork exploration? You need not look any more than Artrepreneur’s archives. Below are some good destinations to commence.


Spooky Art
Stephan Powys Fowler, Untitled 2022 (2022) is an summary architectural eyesight partly encouraged by Allen Ginsberg’s poem Howl.


The two majestic and mysteriously foreboding, Stephan Powys Fowler’s digital masterpieces are a interesting technical interpretation of decay. The artist describes:

My operate discovers constructions that emerge from non-linearities, ghostly artifacts, and transcendent imagesPixels are equal to brush strokes only when they come to be obvious I believe electronic art is most visceral and effective when it escapes high-res utopia and as a substitute crumbles just before the eyes, demonstrating the brittle elements that its sum is higher than.

It is fascinating to consider of decay exterior of an organic context, and even though incredibly unique from the extra conventional interpretations we’ve explored, it goes with out indicating that Powys Fowler reminds us of our enduring fragility even in an imagined future.

In a recent job interview with Artrepreneur, Moonbound Studio reveals a earth that celebrates the softer side of the mysterious and misunderstood. Magical gals and their spooky buddies make up this charming universe, and Leitner’s characters usually come to feel serious to me – like they’ve been wandering about in my head, and I just will need to find out them fairly than generate them. Enchanted forests, haunted castles, and landscapes stuffed with paranormal spirits characterize the artist’s operate, shaping a universe that highlights our most historical preoccupations in a fully new and distinctive way.

When hunting for horror, the pure place to commence is in the human psyche. And diving deep into surrealist operates reveals a treasure trove of photographs that can raise existential thoughts inside of all of us. Artist Pony Ma describes:

My artwork tends to develop an imaginary planet which has been buried deeply in my thoughts since my childhood. In my perform, I deconstruct legendary pop society characters then use my very own creativeness to recreate an image which represents my inner environment. Persons always ask me if there are any tales behind my work and the answer is generally the identical: ‘No.’

There is a thing delightfully nihilistic in the “No” that Ma gives as an solution about their perform. What if, at the conclusion of the day, anything truly is meaningless?

It can be argued that people are most fearful of what they do not have an understanding of and can not management. Is there any space that encapsulates that feeling of uncertainty more than when we’re just times absent from slumber? Kathryn Reichert states:

‘Hypnagogia’ refers to that nebulous, albeit short, condition of consciousness amongst asleep and awake. The mere minutes expended toeing this threshold are amongst the most remarkably elusive and minimum understood tier of the human knowledge- despite the reality that we all share this experience, normally every day. Throughout this fragmentation of assumed, our minds release from the system that inherently calls for rationalization. Cost-free of this demand, our goals, irrespective of whether narrative or formless, are simply illustrations of our internal truths and vulnerability. Our views are displayed as visual poetry, wonderful and relatable in their openness and a beacon of introspection to individuals who treatment to delve deeper into interpretation. What is remaining is honesty, unfiltered.

Though Reichert’s description is without doubt poetic and beautiful, permitting the truths of our unconscious to arise in a completely unfiltered way feels surprisingly dangerous. What if we reveal a monster within?

Spooky Art
In constructed scenes like Octopus (2017), artist Kathryn Reichert generates a distorted perspective on every day domestic objects and toys.


It is human nature to categorize and conform, so what takes place when have been confronted with a radical change in the notion of the self? By means of deformation, concealment, and the use of expressive strokes, Filip Gyurkovsky makes an attempt to permit the essence of the mysterious and the mysterious emanate from his portraits. Flesh falls away, and the familiar gets distorted, building haunting portraits that linger long after the viewer has turned their head.

From monsters in antiquity to grizzly displays of revenge in Renaissance art, we have always seemed in direction of the macabre for thrills and inspiration. And though it appears to be peculiar that we may possibly consciously seek out out the uncomfortable, it is, eerily, a universal phenomenon. Probably it’s the strike of adrenaline we expertise challenging boundaries when our environments are in the long run safe and controlled. Or possibly it feels subversive and enjoyable to gravitate to what was normally conditioned to operate from in worry. No issue the purpose, one particular matter is obvious: be they ghosts from the earlier or haunting visions of the future, spooky art is right here to stay.

What imagery can make your pores and skin crawl? What triggers deep-seated fears? And do you enjoy complicated your senses? Permit us know in the opinions!