Fun Fact of the Week! Halloween Paintings Edition
It is that time. When we embrace the light fears we can in an effort to ignore those we cannot.
Expression is difficult. So let us turn to those who achieved it well, with the backstories of some of the most haunting paintings produced in the 1800’s.
The Scream – Edvard Munch:
The origins of where Munch found inspiration for The Scream are murky. Explanations range from the deific eruption of Krakatoa, which killed over 36,000 people on the other side of the dormant wrath we call Earth. Perhaps it was the combination of the screams of animals at the slaughterhouse along with the cries of inmates in an insane asylum (which may have housed his sister). Still more speculation claims it was a formation of polar stratospheric clouds, which drew the painter into realizations about the enormity of that which is not under our control and is well beyond beauty and understanding.
All that can be said for sure is that Munch found himself near the abyss beyond stable thought when he was out on a walk with his friends one evening. In his journal entry from the 22nd of January 1892, he described how “I sensed a scream passing through nature.”
Pinturas Negras (Black Paintings) – Fransisco Goya:
Goya was a Spanish painter in the 1820’s, and over a period of four years expressed his fear, frustrations, and insanity on the walls of his house. The politically tumultuous times of the early 1800’s in Spain caused Goya great distress, which compounded his two brushes with death on account of illness. The painter sought some way to express his disgust at the reality of life, and his panic at the thought of losing it, and found that output on the private walls of his house.
The result was what PG Hamerton, a Victorian art critic, stated must have come from, “a hideous inferno … a disgusting region … shapeless as chaos.” The set of 15 paintings include the famous Saturn Eating his Son, The Dog, Witch’s Sabboth, and Heads in a Landscape. Viewing these dark paintings, one can be taken into the abode of Quinta de Sordo, and made to dwell on the same wordless themes and gaze into the same wordless faces that Goya found within his mind.
Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going? – Paul Gauguin:
This painting was spawned from the mind of its French creator in Tahiti as he suffered countless hardships in his life. After facing eczema, syphilis, conjunctivitis, poverty, and the death of his daughter, Gaugin decided to paint one final work to be his legacy, before attempting to take his own life. Art critics have commented how it expressed a human life cycle of “birth, sin, and death.” Guagin said of the work, “I believe that this canvas not only surpasses all my preceding ones, but [also] that I shall never do anything better, or even like it.”