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Spooky Painters of Renown

From the world of genuine, accepted high art come this collection of historic painters who have succeeded in keeping the 'spooky' in serious art.

That Which I Should Have Done
I Did Not Do

Ivan Albright

Chicago's own king of morbid art, Ivan Albright's early influences include a stint as an illustrator of artillery casualties. Working for up to 10 years on a painting, often with single-haired brushes, Albright's deliberate style creates a luminously decayed feel that must be seen in person. The Art Institute of Chicago, where he studied, has the largest collection of his works. His 'Picture of Dorian Grey' appeared in a major film of that name in the 1940's. He will be missed.

The Picture of Dorian Gray

The Nightmare (1781)

Henri Fuseli

Early master of the gothic, Fuseli may be best known for 'The Nightmare,' a sfumatu-laden invocation of elder superstitions. Compare this painting to the video box for 'Gothic' some time (but don't bother renting it).

Heironymous Bosch

What more needs to be said than 'The Garden of Earthly Delights?' Barely post-medieval, Bosch visually captured all the fears that the church could generate. Other, lesser known works by Bosch are even more disturbing in their depiction of humanity as deranged, disfigured idiots (as in 'Christ Bearing the Cross').

Georgio DeChirico

20th century creator of desolate dreamscapes, abandoned monolith-towns, and roaming figures with long shadows.

Mathias Grunewald

Master of the German high Gothic, Grunewald (1475-1528) captured true 'spooky' in his depiction of the Crucifixion in the center panel of the Isenheim Alterpiece (now in Colmar).

detail from the Isenheim Altarpiece

Caspar David Freidrich

German nationalistic pianter of the 19th century, Freidrich often painted desolate scenes of abandoned graveyards amid winter oaks ('Cloistered Graveyard in the Snow'). Alas, many of these works were destroyed in bombing raids during World War II.

Albrecht Durer

Master of paint, engraving, and woodcut, Durer is one of the most famous artists of the 15th century. While most of his works were secular in nature, their personified depictions of death, the devil, and biblical plagues are quite vivid, and still very effective. Look to his woodcuts for the best of these pieces.

The French Ambassadors

Hans Holbien

Not officially considered a 'usually spooky' artist, Holbien is best remembered for his enigmatic inclusion of a morbid optical illusion in 'The French Ambassadors.' When viewed from a low angle, the odd shape near center-bottom becomes a beautifully rendered human skull.

Francisco Goya

Morbid series of works like Tampico ('The Horrors of War'), he routinely worked on themes including insane asylums ('pest houses') and witches in sabbath. Also very cool is the painting 'Saturn Devouring his Children.'

Edward Munch

His masterpiece 'The Scream,' created in both paint and woodcut, has become a pop-culture icon. In the mid 1990's, the painting was stolen from it's museum in Norway, but was recovered several years later.

Egon Scheile

A student of Gustav Klimt, Scheile's tendency to graphically depict angular, seemingly malnourished women represented a disturbing trend in nudes.