The most creepy monsters from art history

Let’s go back in time and take a look in the most frightening monsters throughout art history. 


“The nightmare” by Henry Fuseli

Ever since it was first exhibited in 1782 at the Royal Academy in London, The Nightmare has been a symbol of horror that draws on science and folklore. The painting has been thought to possibly express the effects of a nightmare or be a symbol of sexual desire.


“Three Studies for a Self-Portrait” by Francis Bacon

In this 1979 work, Bacon depicts himself as a languid, eery kind of monster. He had told David Sylvester a few years earlier that he loathed his own face, but did self-portraits because everyone around him had been dying.



“The Face of War” by Salvador Dali

This work by the famous surreal painter, completed in 1940, is reminiscent of the Spanish Civil War. Dali has said that it is the only work where one can see his handprint in the lower right corner of the canvas.


“The Cyclops” by Odilon Redon

Redon’s artworks typically depict a dream-like world, where fairies, monsters, and spirits roam. This 1914 painting depicts the Cyclops Polyphemus spying on the sleeping Nereid Galathea from behind a mountain.


“Vampire” by Edvard Munch

Evidently, Munch did not name this 1893 work “Vampire” – it was originally named “Love and Pain” and the artist remained ambiguous about its true meaning. Over time the name was changed to “Vampire” as viewers saw the work in a sadomasochistic light.


“Saturn Devouring His Son” by Francisco Goya

Painted by Spanish artist Francisco Goya between 1819-1823,Saturn Devouring His Son was one of several paintings originally created by the artist as murals in his home. Eerily, this work of Saturn cannibalizing one of his children lived in Goya’s dining room.


“The Temptation of St. Anthony” by Salvator Rosa

The temptation of St. Anthony is a popular subject throughout art history. With so many terrifying imaginings it’s hard to pick just one, but we think Salvator Rosa’s 1645 painting is certainly one of the scariest. Part man, part beast, part skeleton, part pterodactyl — Rosa’s monster is uniquely horrifying.


“The Laughing Hannya (Waraihannya)” by Katsushika Hokusai

The Laughing Hannya depicts two demons, a hannya – a woman who becomes a demon due to deep-seated jealousy – and a yamanba – a demon who devours infants brought to the mountains. Hokusai’s portrait depicts the hannya/yamanba’s monstrous delight before eating an infant’s head.


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