12 Famous Scary Paintings – Explore Darkness Of Creepy Arts

12 Famous Scary Paintings - Explore Darkness Of Creepy Arts

There are always two sides to a human.

One that is bright and another that is dark.

Whenever you witness a creepy view, it leaves you spine-chilling. Do you know why?

It’s because it stimulates the dark side of your mind, which is eager to learn about the subject.

Creepy, melancholic, and dreadful arts are the most searched for and popular among people.

They intrigue viewers to find out what lies behind.

Look at the famous Scream painting by Edvard Munch, which is an embodiment of unease and horror art.

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I always wonder why these scary paintings were made in the first place.

Did the painter have a devilish mind, or were they inspired by the horror depiction?

I guess the history has never been fully disclosed in front of our eyes.

The reason why those famous painters created such disturbing art is still a mystery.

But that’s what makes me a writer.

Search for answers and unravel them in front of you.

After digging for stories about these 12 famous scary paintings, here I am with the purpose and origin of art.

But first, let me answer the question that was asked by many during my search.

Why did Artists Create Creepy Paintings?

Inspiration and influences cannot justify why artists create horror paintings in the first place.

If I say that the arts that give you chills with their unsettling views are nothing but the truth about society and the modern world, will you still feel scared?

The famous painters conscious mind playing with their thoughts gave birth to these famous scary paintings.

Some wanted to reflect the real face of the world, and some made their inner feelings obvious through these arts.

We can say that they were highly fascinated by the dark history.

To explore topics such as brutality and morality, their artistic mind took a turn towards the scared painting.

Their skills confronted the subject of death and cruelty in everyday conflict.

Curious to know more? Let’s hear what these famous scary paintings want us to say.

12 Famous Scary Paintings Around the World

If you search for famous scary paintings, there are various artworks that will show up.

The horror artists had their own way of capturing people’s attention.

I have covered 12 famous scary paintings that have some thrilling backstories to share.

1. Triptych of Earthly Vanity and Divine Salvation

Triptych of Earthly Vanity and Divine Salvation is one of the famous scary paintings
Image: wikipedia
ArtistHans Memling
Created Inc. 1485
MediumOil on wood
PeriodsNorthern Renaissance
Housed InMusée des Beaux-Arts of Strasbourg, France
PriceNot Disclosed

Famous nude paintings featuring women are common. 

But for the year 1485, it was something new and extraordinary.

The three panels showcase a naked woman staring at her own reflection, surrounded by doom and wickedness.

Hans Memling’s scary paintings always contained erotica and deathly sins.

This is witnessed through his famous horror art.

Vanity means empty and futile, which is a characteristic of earth as opposed to heaven.

People having sexual desires are depicted as a scene from hell in the painting.

It’s an artwork that reminds people about the horror of hell and strengthens moral values in their lives.

2. The Nightmare

The Nightmare is one of the famous scary paintings
Image: wikipedia
ArtistHenry Fuseli
Created In1781
MediumOil on canvas
PeriodsRomanticism, Sturm und Drang
Housed InDetroit Institute of Arts
Price$3-4 million

Another famous scary paintings that brings thrills just by their first glance.

The Nightmare is a depiction of a female lying in a discomforting position with a devil over her chest and another one in the corner.

But let me tell you that this is one of the paintings of romanticism.

Yes, an art derived from love denial from his beloved lover Anna.

The dreamy yet disturbing sexual depiction makes this artwork recognizable.

Some even believe that the incubus is Henry himself, and the lady represents his lover.

The way the incubus is sitting on her chest gives a disturbing feeling to the viewers.

The response of the painting became an imitation in political comedy.

Interesting Fact: Fuseli created at least three alternative versions of the painting.

An artwork that created a huge impact—who doesn’t want such a painting on their walls?

Replica portraits are driving everyone crazy. Be a part of it and get an original copy that looks exactly the same.

3. The Face of War

The Face of War is one of the famous scary paintings
Image: wikipedia
ArtistSalvador Dali
Created In1940
MediumOil on canvas
Housed InMuseum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam, the Netherlands
PriceAuction multiple times for $2.3 million

You must have seen renowned artworks by Salvador Dali, right?

Then you must know the way he bends the reality of the world.

The Face of War is the painting that reflects his great surrealist works.

It’s the Spanish war face that shows the skeletons of humanity and suffering.

The terror people experienced during the battle is represented through the snakes surrounding the face.

Dali’s use of surrealism is remarkable.

The painting gives the audience a deadly view and builds a scenario in people’s minds about what the situation must be during the war.

Salvador once said, “Wars have never damaged anyone except the people who die.”

The screams on the faces speak a lot about the pain and suffering people were going through.

Again, the most famous scary paintings reveal the reality of the world.

Suggested Read: About Medieval Art

4. The Garden of Earthly Delights

The Garden of Earthly Delights is one of the famous scary paintings
Image: wikipedia
ArtistHieronymus Bosch
Created Inc. 1500-1505
MediumOil paint on wood
PeriodsNorthern Renaissance
Housed InMuseo Nacional del Prado

You must be wondering how an artwork that has bright colors and greenery all over can be counted as a famous scary painting, right?

The reality is way beyond what it seems.

If you have seen paintings by Hieronymus Bosch, then you must be aware of his thoughts and patterns.

This large scale triptych is an illustration of the three life cycles of humans.

The left panel depicts Adam and Eve, which symbolizes giving birth to mankind.

The central panel explains the riots and bacchanalia that humans indulge in.

The right panel depicts hell, which eventually leads to the end of human life and the damnation of the sins people have committed in their lives.

The journey of a man’s life is presented by Bosch in this painting.

If you ask why The Garden of Earthly Delights is among the scariest paintings, then the answer is the depiction of creation and condemnation in one picture.

The art ends with the depiction of hell, which can make people think that their is no heaven for the sins they have committed.

5. Saturn Devouring His Son

Saturn devouring his son is one of the famous scary paintings
Image: wikipedia
ArtistFrancisco de Goya
Created In1823
MediumOil on canvas
Housed InMuseo Nacional del Prado
PriceEstimated value at $7.4 million

Do you remember when I told you that the reasons behind these famous scary paintings can also be a reflection of the artist’s inner feelings?

Well, Goya is that creepy painter.

Among the well-known Spanish artists, Francisco de Goya was the master of horror.

You can say that he is one of the scariest artist, of course, after Edvard Munch.

He decorated his own house with morbid artwork, also known as “Black Paintings.”

Over the years, he painted his walls with horrific views.

Saturn Devouring His Son belongs to one of his black painting series, which deals with fears of death.

This disturbing art showcases a Greek mammoth in an aggressive manner who is feeding on his own son.

After witnessing the Spanish Inquisition, Goya couldn’t help but paint his heart out with the unsettling scenes.

The site during that time left him haunted and created a dark creepy art.

Son symbolizes Spain, and the demon is Saturn.

The hunger of the Spanish government is clearly seen in the scary drawings.

Suggested read: Romanticism Art Period

6. The Triumph of Death

The Triumph of Death is one of the famous scary paintings
Image: wikipedia
ArtistPieter Bruegel the Elder
Created In1562
MediumOil on panel
PeriodsLate gothic style, a century preceding the Black Death
Housed InMuseo del Prado, Madrid
PriceNot Disclosed

Death is all over the painting. 

No wonder it is one of the most famous scary paintings.

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This creepy art symbolizes a large army of skeletons destroying Earth.

The title is sufficient to describe the whole concept of the painting.

The conquest of death over living beings is something Bruegel wants to show his admirer.

Armies of skeletons approach the humans, who are panicking and terrified.

The artwork reflects the socioeconomic classes, from farmers to rulers, who are being snatched by death.

The scene where skeletons (death) don’t distinguish between classes says a lot about the artist’s mindset.

Death is the same for everyone, whether they are poor or rich.

Suggested read: White Center Painting by Mark Rothko

7. The Flaying of Marsyas

The Flaying of Marsyas is one of the famous scary paintings
Image: wikipedia
Created In1576
MediumOil on canvas
Housed InThe Archbishop’s Palace in Kroměříž
Price$150 million

Let me give you a brief description of this famous scary painting.

Marsyas challenged the Greek god Apollo to a music competition.

All were aware that Apollo was unbeatable.

As a result, Marsyas was punished by being skinned alive.

The artwork you witness above is a portrayal of how Marsyas is being punished by the people.

The Flaying of Marsyas was the last work by Titian.

There is one popular theory about the painting. Do you know?

It is believed that the picture represents Renaissance Neoplatonism, which means “release of the soul from flesh.”

Suggested Read: Schizophrenia Art: Art Therapy or an Expression of Agony

8. Pyramid of Skulls

Pyramids of Skulls is one of the famous scary paintings
Image: wikipedia
ArtistPaul Cezanne
Created In1901
MediumOil on canvas
Housed InPrivate Collection
PriceNot Disclosed

One of the renowned Post-Impressionist artists, Paul Cezanne, created this scary artwork in a pyramidal pattern.

This painting defines Cezanne’s dying letters, where he clearly mentions, “Life has become deathly dull for me.”

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The work gives an indication that he was done with his life and could see death in front of his eyes.

But why was he feeling this way?

It was believed that after his mother’s death in 1897, Cezanne’s observation of death took on a different angle.

At the same time, Paul’s condition started to deteriorate.

The emotional acceptance of death inspired his series of scary paintings.

The use of colors creates an aesthetically striking view for his audience.

Suggested read: The Card Players by Paul Cezanne

9. Massacre of the Innocents

Massacre of the Innocents is one of the famous scary paintings
Image: wikipedia
ArtistPeter Paul Rubens
Created In1611
MediumOil on canvas
PeriodsFlemish Baroque
Housed InArt Gallery of Ontario
Price$76.7 million

This horrifying view depicts an episode from the Bible.

When Herod the Roman was announced as the king of the Jews, a strange order was passed.

Do you know what it was?

The king ordered the execution of all male children who were two years old and under.

After this awful command, the blood was all over the place.

Peter painted this shocking art, which shows the exact view that was around the area.

You can clearly witness the dreadful act where the babies are being slaughtered.

There must be questions about why a king would make such decisions?

It was believed that Herod was told that the king of Jews had been born who would eventually replace him.

Interesting fact: The story takes place soon after the birth of Jesus Christ.

10. The Severed Heads

The Severed Heads is one of the famous scary paintings
Image: wikipedia
ArtistThéodore Géricault
Created In1810
MediumOil on canvas
Housed InNationalmuseum, Stockholm, Sweden
PriceNot Disclosed

Théodore Géricault was obsessed with the concept of mortality.

He was famous for producing scary paintings. 

His great work, like Raft of the Medusa,” tells about how he examines life.

The Severed Heads is nothing but a study of depicting the features of a human body.

The painting shows female and male beheadings that were caused by the guillotine.

Doesn’t the painting seem real?

It does because it was painted from one of the corpses that were present in Theodore’s studio.

Yes, he used to have a collection of human bodies in order to have a detailed version of his paintings.

This brought life to his paintings.

I guess that’s why it is counted among the most famous scary paintings around the world.

11. Dante and Virgil

Dante and Virgil is one of the famous scary paintings
Image: wikipedia
ArtistWilliam-Adolphe Bouguereau
Created In1850
MediumOil on canvas
PeriodsAcademic art, Neoclassicism
Housed InMusée d’Orsay, Paris
PriceNot Disclosed

This creepy painting may not seem scary at first, but once you learn about the story behind it, it may leave you with chills.

The painting was extracted from an episode of Dante’s Divine Comedy.

The story goes like, Dante went to hell with his companion Virgil.

They decided to take a break during their exploration, which eventually led them to the eight circles of hell.

The area was known for the soul who defrauded mankind.

Dante testifies of two souls who were in an endless battle.

Bouguereau showcases the heat of the moment, where the naked humans are moaning in pain, highlighting the wildness and sheer pain of emotions.

The art also emphasizes how everyone is equal in the eyes of God.

Interesting fact: This disturbing art was the first and last work of Bouguereau, implying that this spooky content was unsettling in his eyes.

12. Medusa

Medusa is one of the famous scary paintings
Image: wikipedia
Created In1595-1598
MediumOil on canvas
Housed InUffizi Gallery, Florence, Italy
PriceApprox. $120 million

Being the most famous Baroque artist, Caravaggio produced Medusa as one of the scariest drawings of that period.

The painting depicts the famous Greek mythological story of Medusa and Perseus.

It was believed that Medusa was once a woman with charming features.

She was seduced by Poseidon in the temple of the goddess Athena.

As a punishment, Athena turned Medusa’s hair into snakes and cursed that anybody who looked straight into her eyes would turn into stone.

Later, Perseus was sent to cut her head off.

The painting here shows the beheaded Medusa with its dark history behind it.

If you look at the paintings by Caravaggio, they are renowned for their depiction of creepy portraits and disturbing subjects.

Suggested Read: 17 Famous Portrait Painters- Incredible Portraitists Who Reign The Art World! 


There is always one question: Are dark paintings evil?

The answer will be: Not really!

Dark artists do create disturbing paintings, but the idea and concept mostly derive from myth or the Bible.

The artist chose to portray different spiritual lessons that had an impact on the world.

Other times, they represent the subjects as symbols.

The fascination that the stories bring to their minds creates a space where they can’t resist painting their perspective.

We, as human beings, get captivated by these unsettling images, which ultimately make the art famous.

I mean, just look at Edvard’s The Scream.

It is the most famous scary painting whose replicas are spreading all over the world.

You can also own this creepy art and decorate your walls with some spooky vibes.

How? Click on the link below!

Hello Readers

Did you enjoy each story about those famous scary paintings?

I hope you got the chills and escaped from reality while reading this blog.

If you have any suggestions to offer, please feel free to write them in the comments.

I would love to hear some thrilling stories about the blog.

I will soon be back with some new topics. Till then, keep reading!


Q. What is considered the scariest painting ever?

The Scream by Edvard Munch (1893) is considered one of the scariest paintings.

Q. Who is the famous painter with extremely dark paintings?

Francisco Goya is the famous artist with the most dark arts. The most famous painting by him is Saturn Devouring His Son.

Q. Who is the most famous horror painter?

Edvard Munch stands first when it comes to the famous horror artist.

Q. What are scary paintings called?

Scary paintings are also known as dark art, macabre art, and morbid art.

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