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10 Most Disturbing Pieces of Art

Should all art be pleasant to look at?

Great art has the potential to inspire all sorts of emotions. The following disturbing pieces of art happen to bring out feelings of dread, horror and complete hopelessness. So why not spare a few minutes as we take a look at the 10 most disturbing pieces of art.



10. Francisco Goya – Saturn Devouring His Son

Saturn Devouring his son is one of the most disturbing pieces of art.

This piece by Spanish artist Francisco Goya depicts the Greek myth of the Titan Cronus who, fearing being overthrown, promptly devoured each of his children at birth.

Look at that expression. It’s like ‘Why am I doing this? Nom nom nom, it’s just so tasty’. Coincidently that’s the same face everyone pulls when they eat McDonald’s.

9. Patricia Piccinini – Undivided

Partricia Paccinini's Undivided one of the most disturbing pieces of art
Patricia Paccinini

Piccinini is an Australian artist who works with a variety of media, particularly sculpture. Her work aims to address concerns about biotechnology and mapping the human genome. Her sculptures often depict bizarre creatures with oddly human features.  This piece, titled Undivided showcases a humanoid creature with a bladed carapace. It instils a real sense of unease as it clutches to a young human child. You can see there are other creatures emerging from the back of the first creature. There’s just something so unwholesome about this image.

8. Caravaggio – Judith Beheading Holofernes

Caravaggio's Judith Beheading Holofernes is one of the most disturbing pieces of art.

This gruesome painting by Caravaggio painted in 1598 depicts Judith seducing and decapitating the Assyrian general Holofernes. The attention to detail heightens the horror of the piece. And just look at that creepy old lady, ‘Good thing I broughts me noggin sack’.

7. Theodore Gericault – Anatomical Pieces & Heads Severed

Gericault anatomical studies are among the most disturbing pieces of art

This is a series of very macabre paintings by French painter Theodore Gericault. During the early 1800’s, Gericault began preparatory work for one of his most famous works Raft of the Medusa by borrowing severed body parts from the Paris morgue. He would paint the pieces in disjointed positions then stash them under his bed or on the roof of his apartment so as to render varying degrees of decaying flesh for his paintings – he wanted to achieve different colours and textures.

6. Gerard David – The Judgement of Cambyses

Gerard David's The Judgement of Cambyses is among the most disturbing pieces of art.

At first glance this painting, depicting the arrest of corrupt Persian judge Sisamnes, seems rather harmless until you notice… Oh dear god what are they doing to his leg?

5. Maria Rubinke – Various sculptures

Maria Rubinke's sculptures are the most disturbing pieces of art.

Danish artist Maria Rubinke works with porcelain figures to create truly unsettling imagery. It’s all about little girls dicing their own legs, ripping their scalps in two and pulling out their own eyes.

4. Frances Bacon – Study after Velázquez’s Portrait of Pope Innocent X

France Bacon's Study after Velázquez's Portrait of Pope Innocent X is one of the most disturbing pieces of art

This is a haunting 1953 painting by Irish-born British figurative painter Frances Bacon. It depicts a warped version of the Portrait of Innocent X painted by Spanish painter Diego Valazquez in 1650. Bacon created 45 different versions of this painting as he enjoyed experimenting with colour. His distorted vision of the pope is troubling as the figure screams himself into oblivion.

3. Zdzislaw Beksinski – Various works

Zdzislaw Beksinski  creates some of the most disturbing pieces of art.
Zdzislaw Beksinski

These are the haunting works of murdered artist Zdzislaw Beksinski. Born in Poland in 1929, he became one of Poland’s most influential artists, having his most prolific periods in the 60’s and 70’s. It’s hard to pick just one piece as his entire career was dedicated to creating unsettling images of dystopian surrealism – although he maintained his art was optimistic – however looking at these chilling images it seems obvious that living through the holocaust left an impression on his work.

On February 21st, 2005 he was found dead in his apartment with 17 stab wounds all over his body. A teenage acquaintance of his was arrested for the crime. It is thought that Beksinski refused to lend the teenage boy money before the murder took place.

2. Mark Powell – Diorama

Mark Powell's dioramas are the most disturbing pieces of art.

Melbourne artist Mark Powell conjures up hellish dioramas with disturbing detail. The whole thing is unsettlingly domestic as the demented creatures seem to be preparing some kind of meal.  Powell uses silicone to make the gruesome scenes, as he depicts fevered visions of other-worlds.

1. Joshua Hoffine – Bedside

Joshua Hoffine's Bedside is the most disturbing piece of art.

Hoffine is a horror photographer from Emporia Kansas. Interestingly he worked for Hallmark cards before going freelance. His work is very macabre and seeks to allow the viewer to feel repressed or taboo emotions. This piece titled Bedside is terrifying. The young girl’s blank expression, which happens to be Hoffine’s daughter, is offset by the happy family portrait sitting on the bedside table. The scene has a troubling slickness to it, no doubt a by-product of Hoffine’s time at Hallmark.


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