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Anomalous Art

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"Art is the ultimate expression of Chaos. When I say art, I'm not speaking of the droll portraits that hang in every home, nor the landscape scenes that capture the beauty of our great Empire. No, I'm speaking of those pieces produced in the feverish imaginations of the mentally diseased, those men and women who capture the perverse landscapes of their nightmares. These are reflections of evil, of Chaos in its truest form. That which does not exist in our world is of the Realm of Chaos, and to dabble in imagination is surely as damning as embracing the Ruinous Powers directly."
Gallo, Witch Hunter of Bechafen, Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay ("Tome of Corruption")

When Mad Scientist meets Mad Artist, what is the Frankenstein's Monster?

Portraits whose eyes follow you. Statues that come to life and try to kill you. Photographs that act as portals to otherworldly pocket dimensions of sepia-tone. When a Mad Artist has access to Applied Phlebotinum or The Dark Arts, they usually make Phlebotinum-based Dark Artwork out of it where it is unleashed onto any poor curator or patron to whatever museum or street-gallery it is displayed in. It can be an Ancient Artifact of an anonymous painter or animist from some foreign land, or it can be some abstract drip painting from a New York cruiser. Either way, magic is magic.

Can sometimes be an accessory to Art Attacker. Often overlaps with Artifact of Doom. If the work of art exists in real life and becomes magical in fiction, it is considered a Public Domain Artifact (Defictionalization for the reverse).

Super-Trope to Creepy Changing Painting, Living Drawing, Living Statue, Phantom-Zone Picture, Portal Picture, and Spooky Painting. Sub-Trope of Artifact of Power. Related to Magical Camera if the photos contain magical properties, and Trapped in TV Land when the artwork entraps people into its "world". Related to Fictional Painting.


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    Comic Books 
  • Art Ops is set in a world where all art initiates life; statues, paintings, comic books and even fashion all comes to life. They may have further abilities related to artist intent, like a superhero having their powers or an evocative painting being an Emotion Bomb. The premise is a Benevolent Conspiracy by a clandestine organization seeking to police these rogue artworks from endangering the public.
  • Doom Patrol: The Painting that Ate Paris is the central plot device of one arc. A Droste Image of a painting in a studio apartment, the recursion contains an endless pocket dimension that shifts to different art styles in different levels. The arc gets its name from the Brotherhood of Dada using it to absorb Paris, leaving a barren valley in its place. After the Doom Patrol follows them within, they find that whatever ritual empowered it also captured the Horseman of Oblivion, and their activity awakened it to seek its freedom.
  • Wonder Woman (1987): A supposedly 10th century tapestry is sent to the museum Helena Sandsmark works at, care of Diana who has just started working there. Diana touches it while it's being examined causing the figures within to rise from the tapestry and come to life as the thing was sent there by villains hoping to capture Wonder Woman.

    Fan Works 

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Art of the Dead is about a collection of seven paintings based on the Seven Deadly Sins that cause those who stay in their presence for too long to slowly be consumed by the corresponding sin.
  • In Ghostbusters II, the malicious spirit of Viggo the Carpathian is found housed within his own portrait, emitting high counts of PKE energy and is ultimately used as a conduit to communicate with his underlings.
  • In Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, the entrance to Montmartre (the Parisian equivalent of Diagon Alley) is guarded in plain sight by a bronze statue depicting a woman sitting on a pedestal. When a witch or wizard approaches it, the statue will move its leg and dress away from the pedestal it was set on, opening the passage.
  • Velvet Buzzsaw is about snobby art critics who find posthumous a trove of work by a brilliant but undiscovered artist. When they try to make profit off of it, some sort of curse is unleashed which causes the art around them to kill them in various ways.

  • In The Dark is Rising, it's possible to cast spells by painting them; the result comes out as a hideous-looking abstract work, which glows in the dark.
  • Discworld:
    • In Unseen Academicals, a nervous night watchman in Ankh-Morpork's Art Museum breaks an age-old Ephebian urn. It is put down as one of those things. It is inferred that this is the prison of Pedestriana, Goddess of Foot-The-Ball. Now freed into the world, she looks at what humans have made of her sport - originally a religious ritual in her honor but now degenerated to a day-long street brawl - and starts putting things to rights.
    • Some of Bloody Stupid Johnson's forays into art turn into this. The Unseen University organ has Vox Dei, Thunderstorm, Whoopee Cushion, Squashed Toad, Squashed Rabbits, and most worrisomely, Earthquake voices; his Don'tgonearthe Castle features Wolf Howl, Thunderclap, Scream and Creaky Floors. Empirical Crescent, his attempt to create a block of townhouses, wound up becoming a labyrinthine tesseract instead. His cooking attempts include an ultra-hard wedding cake and a pastry that somehow leveled several blocks around it. Most of his monumental oeuvre could fit in a matchbox.
  • In Duma Key, the protagonist Edgar Freemantle is an amateur painter who is unknowingly channeling his artistic ability via an Eldritch Abomination or Genius Loci named Perse. The painitngs can predict the future, heal a brain injury, kill via sleep apnea, and eventually Perse possesses an art critic via a painting and makes the art critic murder Edgar's daughter.
  • Everything's Eventual: In "The Road Virus Heads North", the protagonist purchases a painting and finds that the details of the painting are changing in an unsettling way. He also can't get rid of the painting.
  • In The Fourth Bear, Jack buys a car from someone named Dorian Gray, which contains a portrait of the car in the back. In a nod to The Picture of Dorian Gray, the car is immune to damage, as anything happens to the picture instead, as Jack finds out after he wrecks his car a few times only to for it to repair itself. But once the odometer on the car reaches zero, the car destroys itself spectacularly, dragging the owner into hell.
  • The Ghosts of Sleath: A painting of Lockwood Hall, independently of any perceptible flame, suddenly melts, cracks and smokes.
  • In the wizarding world of Harry Potter, many of the works of art present are magical in origin, most notably photographs and paintings (especially the many, many portraits littered across the halls of Hogwarts) being animate to the point of being sentient.
  • In Labyrinths of Echo, the Books of Burning Pages are ancient artifacts created by a mad poet who also happened to be a powerful Grand Magister. Anyone who reads one is caught in an anti-Lotus-Eater Machine of sorts, which shows their life going to utter hell, first driving them insane and then killing them outright, after which the book burns up (hence their name). It is theorized that each book contains a single poem composed by the Magister, who was so proud of his creations that he wanted each to be read by exactly one (random) person — who then dies for having enjoyed this privilege. Max, the protagonist of the series, has a run-in with one of these Books in the penultimate volume, and is saved in the nick of time — after he starts reading the poem, but before he goes completely insane.
  • In James Herbert's The Magic Cottage, the titular cottage, infused with a concentration of the "ethereal vitality" which drives and shapes the universe, rouses both benevolent and fearsome anomalies. It inspires an illustrator to an astoundingly lucid painting, in whose recreation of reality her boyfriend briefly finds himself immersed.
  • The title protagonist of The Picture of Dorian Gray unwittingly sells his soul to have his eponymous portrait age and suffer misfortune in his stead — which works.

    Live-Action TV 
  • GARO's first episode began with the Horror Anglay coming out of a woman's nude portrait and possessing the gallery owner.
  • Penny Dreadful includes Dorian Gray on the roster, presumably decades after the original novel. We occasionally see his portrait, depicting him as extremely decrepit and emaciated, and we also see how it works: whenever Dorian suffers any kind of harm, it is transferred to his picture after a short time, returning him to perfect health and youth. Throughout the series, Dorian abuses this power to live a life of utter debauchery.
  • Supernatural, "Provenance": A portrait of the Merchant family, who were murdered in the early 1900s, is an Artifact of Death for any household that buys it. It turns out to be haunted by the family's murderer Melanie Merchant, who's just as Ax-Crazy in death, as well as by her father Isaiah, who tries to prevent Melanie from killing again.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons has had a number of magical paintings over the years.
    • "Blue on Bronze". An abstract swirl of deep blues and violets. If anyone studies the painting for 20 minutes, the painting will correctly answer any yes or no question.
    • "Dragonnel-by-the-Cliff". A picture of a dragonnel (monster) perched on a rocky cliff over a river valley. If a person viewing the painting says the command word "fuga", the dragonnel will leave the painting and serve them.
    • "The Gladiators". A large painting depicting four gladiators facing off against each other in a sand-covered arena. Anyone who passes in front of the painting without saying a password will be taken into the painting and have to fight the gladiators to the death.
    • "Glorindel's Gates". A set of small paintings created by the wizard-bard Glorindel. Each one acts as a Gate spell, transporting the viewer to the place depicted in the painting.
    • "Glorindel's Living Paintings". These large paintings each show a scene that acts like a TV picture, with things moving and changing as if they were real.
    • "Igraine's Portraits". Each one of these pictures allows the viewer to telepathically communicate with the subject of the painting. If the subject is dead, there is a 50% chance of contacting their soul or spirit.
    • "The Watchers". This work depicts a wooded area with heavy undergrowth. Anyone who looks at it carefully can see the eyes of creatures looking through the brush. Anyone who looks at it for too long can have their mind transferred into that of a small woodland animal living nearby (originally intended for espionage).
    • "Widow's Walk". This painting is of the crowded dockside of a busy port. Anyone who looks at it for 10 minutes becomes immune to all divination magic and psionics directed at them for the next eight hours.
  • Pathfinder:
    • Trompe L'oeil paintings are magically-enhanced copies of an original creature that can step off the canvas, assume solid three-dimensional forms, and even inhabit other paintings. These entities can only be permanently killed by destroying the painting that generates them.
    • Invoked with the Seeded Doom Occult Ritual, which corrupts a book, artwork, or piece of music. Anyone exposed to the work or one of its copies is infected with madness or a Curse chosen by the ritualists.
  • Relatively common in Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay due to the corruption of Chaos, and especially in the "Tome of Corruption" textbook.
    • When studied, the painting "A Grim Feast" causes the viewers to slaughter his entire family. A legend tell Girardi del Vors murdered his wife and her two male lovers after he found them in his house then used their blood and fluids to make this painting before hanging himself.
    • The painting "The Blessed Ones" causes any viewer to gain an Insanity Point. If any blood touches it, it releases two Unholy Ones who try to drag the viewer into the painting forever.
  • "The Portrait's Secret" is a Yu-Gi-Oh! Normal Monster card. It is a portrait cursed to life by its creator and brings ill fortune to its owner.

    Video Games 
  • In Arknights, all of Dusk's art can have these kinds of properties if she chooses to. She can paint scrolls which transport people to created universes, and can manifest people or monsters out of her painting based on her emotions. She's able to do this because she's part of a shattered god, and like the rest of her "siblings" her divine power tends to manifest in a form of art or craftsmanship, and in Dusk's case this is painting.
  • Cultist Simulator: The player character can create their own. By using the right exotic pigments and a matching source of inspiration, you can create a painting so steeped in one of the arcane Principles of magic that it can be used as a tool in Ritual Magic. The Ghoul legacy takes this even further; your patron and mentor is Miss Naenia, a semi-divine Name that incarnated in a painting, and you progress towards victory by consuming corpses of occult significance and using the memories you gained to create the Palest Painting.
  • A scenario in Dragon Quest VII has monsters take advantage of a local artist's pieces of art (a clock tower and a painting) to terrorise a town. Unlike other examples though, this is a lot more mild, and the monsters only use the art itself to attack the village. The characters have to literally go into the dimension controlling the "Groundhog Day" Loop through a painting.
  • Dragon Quest XI has a scenario in which the monster of the week, Dora-in-Grey, takes the form of a mural that can lead to another dimension. Her m.o? To prey on peoples' desire for glory by telling them that her mural will bring glory to its viewers, or appeal to sympathy by pretending to be a little girl whose parents were lost looking at the mural. Once they're trapped, she lures them into her trap and adds them to her mural.
  • Using the loose realities of the mindscape Union, Mad Artist and serial killer Stefano Valentini in The Evil Within 2 uses his Reality Warping abilities to transform the innocent people unfortunate enough to be in Union with him into Gornish art pieces. Many of these works of art are their grisly murders rendered in slow-motion. Other works of art take the form of freakish monsters such as the Guardian, a towering creature with multiple women's heads and a chainsaw for an arm, and Obscura, a grotesque amalgamation of two women victims with a time-freezing antique camera for a head.
  • In Final Fantasy VI, a millionaire won a Magicite shard from auction, which turns out to be a remain of the Esper of Beauty Starlet. The millionaire, smitten by the Magicite, hires Relm to paint the Esper, but a demon named Chardanook possesses the painting and corrupts the rest of the millionaire's mansion into a haunted house full of hostile living paintings.
  • Ib is based heavily around this trope, with much of the game taking place in an art gallery exhibit of a Mad Artist by the name of Guertena, whose art pieces attack the protagonists. Later in the game they explore a Nightmare Fuel Coloring Book world created by Mary, a Creepy Child who is actually a living painting created by Guertena.
  • In I Wanna Be the Guy, Lu Bu's portrait in the gallery of Former The Guys changes its facial expression when it's hit by the flame coming from Bowser's portrait.
  • Kirby: Canvas Curse: The main villain Drawcia is a painting that comes to life and becomes hostile, which Kirby has to fight.
  • When hung, all of the paintings in the Psychonauts level Black Velvetopia all manifest as real when they are hung and allow what little mobility throughout the level is possible when the rampaging bull El Odio is running about in the streets. Considering this is set in the mind of the One-Track-Minded Artist Edgar Teglee, this can be read as allegorical of art-therapy.
  • Super Mario 64, uses warping paintings to enter different levels. Super Mario Odyssey brings this back as an homage, but it's used to rematch bosses instead.
  • Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines: An art exhibition on Caine, the first vampire, has four paintings that can only be damaged by slashing them in a specific order and that summon up a monster made out of animated blood when destroyed.

    Web Original 
  • The RPC Authority has some of theses on its hands:
    • The Academy of True Art (a.k.a L'Academia Della Vera Arte) is an academy that employs anomalies in its teachings of art, everything from visual to auditory the AOTA has you covered. Unless you try and kill someone that is, more common than you think.
    • Leonardo Da Vinci is also an anomalous artist in a classic case of Beethoven Was an Alien Spy.
  • SCP Foundation: Various SCPs are works of art that are supernatural in origin. Many of them are created by a group called Are We Cool Yet?, an avant-garde art movement consisting of a loosely-organized collection of anomalous artists ("anartists") that create works of art that are sentient or possess some form of supernatural properties. See the artistic tag for more examples.
    • An early example is SCP-099, also known as "The Portrait" by RenĂ© Magritte (a non-anomalous copy is in the Museum of Modern Art currently). When viewed at a close distance, it induces intense paranoia, which lasts if viewed for too long. Not only is it suggested to be intentional, but someone attempted to weaponize it.
    • SCP-146 is the head of a bronze statue which induces traumatic memories in anyone who makes eye contact, which gets worse with longer exposure, up to and including vivid hallucinations of the memory followed by catatonia. Thankfully, photographs induce no such effect.
    • Like the above, photos of SCP-151 are completely safe. Unlike the above, it's a painting from the view of someone underwater, and viewing the painting for a split second causes the viewer to suffer lethal dry drowning over a period of 24 hours.
    • SCP-368 is an origami crane that acts as a living crane would.
    • Instances of SCP-531 are brass statues of cats that were recovered from an Egyptian tomb. When two of the statues are making eye contact, they generate a powerful psychic field that makes people unwilling to pass between the statues, but if a statue isn't making eye contact with a partner, anyone who makes eye contact with it will become unwilling to break eye contact and slowly transform into another statue with identical properties. Interestingly, the Foundation has interest in applying these statues for its own security purposes due to their ability to create impassible barriers.
    • SCP-800 is a paper scroll that updates itself to reflect East Asian military conflicts. The scroll has been around since the late 19th century, and has taken forms representing the Russo-Japanese War, the Second Sino-Japanese War, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. It can be edited, but the Foundation heavily discourages it, as North Korea ran a nuclear test a short time after the scroll was changed.
    • SCP-804 is a modern art piece of a globe that breaks down all artificial objects until they disintegrate, while humans will starve and die, all within an ever-expanding radius. Thankfully, it's not immune to its own effects, so it shut itself down, and the freezing cold of the Alaskan wilderness should prevent it from starting again. It doesn't have any memetic effects, either- the artists built it simply because they wanted to see humanity die.


Video Example(s):



The dark form that Lucy's feelings have created lurks in the depths of her inner world. She hides in a tubular space and attacks by throwing paint and serrated picture frames.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (3 votes)

Example of:

Main / AnomalousArt

Media sources: