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Nightmare Fuel / Art

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One of Giger's concept art images for Poltergeist II: The Other Side

A list with haunting, scary paintings, sculptures and other visual art works.

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  • Many Egyptian mural paintings have an eerie look to them. The people depicted are 2D drawings, sure, but there's always one eye staring at you.

    Middle Ages 
  • "The Judgment of Cambyses by Gerard David.
  • Zuccari's frescoes of Capital Sins and Hell in the duomo of the Santa Maria del Fiore Cathedral in Italy has a man in the centre who is half flayed and still sits upright. At one point these paintings were covered up because they were thought to be too horrific.
  • Almost every painting by Hieronymus Bosch belongs on this page. His visions of Hell were really disturbing.

    Renaissance, Baroque, and Rococo 
  • Hans Holbein the Younger's Body of the Dead Christ in the Tomb. It's just so... Uncompromising in its portrayal of death.
  • Judith Decapitates Holofernes by Caravaggio.
    • The version by Artemisia Gentileschi is even more brutal.
  • Titian's Flaying of Marsyas. Just, the calmly blank expression on Apollo's face, the disbelief on Marsyas's, the beginning of the cut so you know it's really going to happen. Museums really should come with warnings...
  • Pieter Bruegel the Elder:
  • Rembrandt van Rijn:
  • Peter Paul Rubens:
    • The decapitated head of Medusa was subject of one of his paintings.
    • Two centuries before Francisco de Goya Rubens already painted a gruesome version of Saturn eating his child.
  • Perhaps the most horrifying memento mori painting is Juan de Valdes Leal's Finis gloriae mundi, which graphically depicts three rotting corpses (including a bishop, and the artist's patron — who was in fact still alive at the time the painting was done) being eaten by insects, while above their heads hangs a scale full of objects representing sin on one side and penitence on the other. The name of the painting translates to: "The End of Earthly Glory."
    • His In Ictu Oculi as pretty creepy too.

     Romanticism and Symbolism 
  • Francisco de Goya:
    • Los Desastres de la Guerra (The Disasters of War), a gruesome collection of drawings showing executions, torture, Malevolent Mutilation, rape and other horrors inflicted on people during The Napoleonic Wars in Spain.
    • The Sleep of Reason Breeds Monsters, where Reason is fast asleep, while behind him all kinds of creepy bats, owls, and other monsters emerge out of the darkness.
    • Los Caprichos shows a lot of disturbing material, among them a woman trying to get one of the gold teeth from the mouth of a hanged man, covering her face away from him. All Will Fall in the same series shows a group of winged males circle around a half-woman, half-harpy. Down below the fallen males are plucked by a group of women.
    • Los Disparates has an image named Bobalicon, where a dancing giant, drawn from a popular carnival character, is transformed into a disturbing phantom with ghostly faces looming up beside him.
    • The Bewitched Man where a creepy scene takes place where a man believes that he is bewitched and his life depends on keeping a lamp alight. Behind him several donkeys walk on their hind legs.
    • Saturn Devouring His Son still disturbs audiences.
  • The painting The Nightmare by Henry Fuseli.
  • Oedipus and the Sphinx and King Diomedes Devoured by His Horses" by Gustave Moreau.''
  • Gustave Doré:
  • John Martin's paintings of biblical apocalypse, Destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah and The Great Day of His Wrath, show impressive evocations of God's wrath.
  • Théodore Géricault made some studies of chopped up heads, arms, and legs in preparation of The Radeau of the Médusa.
    • Gericault's other paintings of people with mental illnesses also deserve mention, particularly the Insane Woman.
  • The Apotheosis of Death by Vasily Vereshchagin shows a huge pile of skulls, with crows coming to feast on them [1]
  • "Satan" by Franz von Stuck [2]
  • "The Bear Dance" by William Holbrook Beard was intended to be amusing, but seeing bears walking on two feet on a secluded place in the middle of the forest is rather creepy.
  • Many of the paintings of Antoine Wiertz are pretty horrific (subject matter includes people being buried alive, a woman graphically blowing her rapist's head off — although this kind of also counts as a Crowning Moment of Awesome — a man graphically blowing his own head off, and numerous studies of severed heads), but the creepiest by far is Faim, Folie, Crime ("Hunger, Madness, Crime," which depicts a disheveled peasant woman with a Broken Smile clutching a bloody knife and a mysterious, bloodstained bundle, sitting by the fireplace in a nearly-empty cottage. Hanging over the fireplace is a cauldron...with a baby's foot sticking out of it.
  • The lithograph of a colossal octopus attacking a ship.
  • "Satan Sowing Seeds" from Félicien Rops' "Les Sataniques".
  • "Death Seizing A Woman" by Käthe Kollwitz. [3]
  • The Plague Hag on the Stairs by Theodor Kittelsen, the most nightmare inducing picture of The Black Death incarnate, ever. There are people who have problems just looking at this chilling picture. On the other hand, the "plague hag" can be Nightmare Retardant to others, thanks to its derp face.
    • Skog Troll (Forest Troll) [4]
    • Teleleli, some sort of water monster [5] and another one [6].
    • The Cat Who Came To Eat Everything [7]
  • Ilya Repin's painting of Ivan the Terrible holding his dying son, whom he'd struck down seconds earlier in a random fit of rage. The look in his eyes...

     Impressionism, Expressionism, Fauvism, Cubism 
  • Pablo Picasso: All those cubist people with melting faces are some veritable Body Horror, especially Crying Woman and Guernica.
  • Edvard Munch's "The Scream"
  • Almost all of Expressionism, absolutely everything Otto Dix ever made.
  • Francis Bacon's paintings of "Screaming Popes". Observe. The man brings together (among other things) huge sides of butchered meat and the most horrific screams you will ever see.

  • Salvador Dalí: Soft Construction With Boiled Beans From Premonition Of The Civil War shows a huge giant who has no romp, just a trapezium shaped nothingness in the middle, while his hands and feet appear in odd places.
    • Even more unsettling is the sense that the giant looks this way because he's tearing himself apart.
  • René Magritte:
    • Young Girl Eating A Bird
    • "The Rape" ("Le viol")
    • The Threatened Assassin
  • Many paintings by Giorgio di Chirico show desolated landscapes which have a haunting atmosphere.
  • Paul Delvaux painted many images of skeletons, naked women and trains in night atmospheres.
  • Yves Tanguy specialized in painting twisted landscapes filled with objects and architecture that look like they have some purpose as first glance, but don't resemble anything real, making the works seem busy and lonely at the same time. Here's one titled "Fear," and here's a photo of the artist himself, wearing a look that's every bit as unhinged as his oeuvre would suggest.
  • Anything and everything by Zdzisław Beksiński. His works feature copious amounts of thoroughly creepy imagery, including deformed figures, dystopian landscapes, apocalyptic themes, sexual imagery, violence, death, and general weirdness, all drawn in a disturbing degree of detail. Interestingly, the man himself was by all accounts very cheerful and pleasant.

    Asian traditional art 
  • The Dream Of The Fisherman's Wife by Hokusai shows a woman being erotically gratified by an octopus with large piercing eyes. [8]

    Art photography 
  • The photographs of Diane Arbus show a lot of photos of circus freaks, twins, triplets, handicapped people or unusual men and women that border to the Uncanny Valley. Even when she shot normal scenes inside amusement parks or the interior of a room with a Christmas tree there's still a haunting atmosphere about them.
  • The photograph posted on the hide page. It is a still photograph, and yet people who have viewed that photograph have noted that they feel as if it is staring at them, or have noticed the eyes moving. This is due to an optical illusion of depth in the way the photograph is set up (his eyes look more deeply set/more prominent due to the lighting and makeup, and if your eyes move in the right way, his appear to move with them due to this) but to anyone unaware of the optical illusion involved, it can seem ghostly...

  • Franz Xaver Messerschmidt's Karakterköpfe which shows dozens of expressive facial expressions made into sculptures.
  • The sculpture Fucking Hell by Jake and Dinos Chapman shows hundreds of tiny puppets all in a symbbolic depiction of the worst crimes mankind has ever committed.
  • This memorial sand sculpture of Michael Jackson (RIP).
  • Edward Kienholz's State Hospital depicts a naked, emaciated figure, with a fishbowl instead of a head, strapped to a filthy bunk bed with a leather belt. Above his head, surrounded by a neon speech bubble, is an identical figure — implying that mental illness and medical mistreatment have limited the bottom figure's thoughts and identity to his grim reality. Perhaps the most nightmarish aspect of the sculpture is the fact that it was inspired by a patient at the psychiatric hospital where Kienholz worked as an orderly.

  • Even without the obligatory "curse" backstory, "The Hands Resist Him" by Bill Stoneham is pretty damn creepy.
  • The painting "The Crying Boy" has several copies and several of them have survived house fires without any damage done to them. This led many people to think that it was "cursed".
  • Anything, anything, anything by H. R. Giger, the lovely man who brought you the look of the Xenomorphs in Alien. The fact that his art is inspired by his literal nightmares does not help. For those who are unfamiliar with his work.
    • Giger tells the story of how a customs official once asked if his paintings were photographs. He commented that the only place you could take a photograph that looked like one of his paintings would be in Hell...
    • Even more chilling is how Timothy Leary, one of Giger's friends, described his work: "Giger's work disturbs us, spooks us, because of its enormous evolutionary time span. It shows us, all too clearly, where we come from and where we are going."
  • The drawings of Paul Rumsey all show haunting Body Horror images, made in dramatic black and white.
  • Ivan Albright specializes in creepy paintings, most notably "That Which I Should Have Done I Did Not Do (The Door)" and his version of "The Painting of Dorian Gray".
  • Absolutely anything by Polish painter Zdzislaw Beksinski will be terrifying. Seriously, that guy gives H. R. Giger a run for his money! The fact that he lived through the Nazi invasion of Poland might have something to do with it, though by all accounts he was a kind, relatively normal guy.
  • The late Dr. Jack Kevorkian was a painter in his spare time. Yes, they were creepy. Quite a few were inspired by illnesses; this one was inspired by paraplegia.
  • The work Of Ken Currie also haunts viewers.
  • Tony Oursler projects people's faces, often intoning disturbing dialogue, onto the heads of small dummy dolls. The whole face ones are creepy enough, but he also likes to do the same for things like this. It's particularly chilling seeing them in action on YouTube. * shudder*
  • Laurie Lipton has done so much weird, creepy and downright scary art. Someone clawing a wall full of faces while a joyful person dances next to them. People eating in a TV room MADE OF faces, skulls, and reaching arms. A toddler with a knife and a freaky gleeful grin, waiting for their mom. Screaming heads flooding out of a music box held by a blank-staring doll. And that's not even the most fucked-up of it. Here's a link to her website
  • The art of Keith Thompson is characterized by unbelievable amounts of Body Horror, Squick and general creepiness. His "Undead" series are probably the worst - in particular, for the love of God do not look at his Pripyat Beast!
    • He actually made a book on how to draw the undead.
  • Neil Blevins's horror-ish pieces are rare, but they are major. One, "Alternative Birth", has a bundle of wires/feelers coming out of someone's belly. This triangle-shaped Cacodemon's mouth is lined with eyes and full of pointy teeth. And this is a giant, floating mass of tentacles full of glowing eyes. Blevins gallery link
  • The "Transfiguration" artistic performances, by French painter and performer Olivier de Sagazan, is focused on a man altering himself his face, several times. In truly Nightmare Face ways.
  • This picture used to be the page graphic of the main Nightmare Fuel page until people complained. The picture is a composite of this picture and this one, both of which are also Photoshopped and both of which are plenty scary on their own.
  • Tetsuya Ishida, surrealist Japanese artist. Some of the disturbing images include someone climbing out of a lizard's guts, and sauce smeared on people's faces and hands that looks like blood. If you think surrealist paintings are scary by themselves, you'll find these worse. If you don't, you'll find some of these scary anyway.
    • In case anyone was wondering, he is absolutely not to be confused with Tatsuya Ishida of Sinfest fame. Name's almost the same, but their styles are about as different as night and day.
  • Art about Holocaust. Especially scary as it is often Based on a True Story of survivors...
    • In similar vein, Nikolai Getman's paintings of his time in Stalin's Gulag, in particular his horrifying "Punishment by Mosquitoes."
  • All of the paintings here are creepy in still-life form, but check them out animated. There's something both beautiful and unnerving about it.
  • Paul Cadmus's work was normally of the homoerotic variety, celebrating the male form in a seemingly wholesome style of painting. His Seven Deadly Sins series, however, was the opposite of wholesome or celebratory, and was downright disturbing. Rounding the corner at the Metropolitan Museum or Art and seeing these paintings might just stamp the nightmare imagery into the brain for the rest of the day at the very least.
  • The de Young Museum in San Francisco has exhibits that feature art, sculptures, and artifacts from all over the world. This includes the works of the Asmat people of Papua New Guinea. The collection of masks and reliquaries that adorn real skulls is simultaneously beautiful and creepy.
  • Tom Lea's painting The 2,000 Yard Stare, currently the Thousand-Yard Stare trope image. Made to depict the events of the Battle of Peleliu, the painting pretty accurately captures the nature of war, and damn if it isn't creepy as hell. The empty stare in the soldier's eyes pretty much drains any sort of humanity from him, making him seem more like a thing than a person.
  • A lot of the imagery in the films of Rachel Mclean, which doesn't so much exist in the Uncanny Valley as drill right through it and come out the other side of the Earth.