17 Horrifyingly Gross Works Of Art To Scare You S**tless

Jake and Dinos Chapman, Sex I, 2003. © Jake and Dinos Chapman. All Rights Reserved, DACS 2016. Photo © Stephen White Courtesy White Cube
Jake and Dinos Chapman, Sex I, 2003. © Jake and Dinos Chapman. All Rights Reserved, DACS 2016. Photo © Stephen White Courtesy White Cube
Photo of Freire Barnes
Art & Design Editor30 October 2017

In honour of Hallows’ Eve, we celebrate a darker, gorier side to art through the ages. Whether you need inspiration for a last minute Halloween costume or you want to embrace your devilishly ghoulish side, these 17 works of art will either horrify or appeal.

Me, Dead at 38 (2009) by Matthew Day Jackson

Matthew Day Jackson, Me, Dead at 35, 2009. | © Matthew Day Jackson. Courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth

Facing death head on, Brooklyn-based artist Matthew Day Jackson wants to put our fear of dying to rest in his Me, Dead ongoing series that imagines his end in various mortifying ways. Having my corpse pecked at by crows would definitely make it to the top of my list.

Judith Beheading Holofernes (1614-1620) by Artemisia Gentileschi

Artemisia Gentileschi, Judith Beheading Holofernes, from 1614 until 1620 | © Wiki Commons

The Baroque contemporary of Caravaggio, Artemisia Gentileschi’s powerful depiction of this biblical story is physically violent as blood spurts from Holofernes neck. Considered one of the first feminist paintings as it shows women triumphing over men, Judith Beheading Holofernes is the 17th century equivalent of the Slasher film genre.

Theatre of Orgies and Mysteries 15 (2005) by Hermann Nitsch

Hermann Nitsch, Theatre of Orgies and Mysteries 15, 2005. Photo: Georg Soulek

It doesn’t get more gory than Vienna Actionist Hermann Nitsch’s performances. His ‘actions’ involve ritualistic acts including crucifixion, and a hell of a lot of blood. Gore-tastic.

Saturn Devouring His Son (1819-1823) by Francisco De Goya

Francisco De Goya, Saturn Devouring His Son, 1819-1823. | © Wiki Commons

Calling all cannibal giants – take note, eating your child isn’t the way to overcome a fear of being outgrown by your offspring as wonderfully captured in Goya‘s disturbing painting of the Greek myth about Titan Cronus. Let’s not even talk about the fact Goya painted this directly on the walls of his house…

Visual Temperature – Sofa (2008) by Cao Hiu

Cao Hui, Visual Temperature - Sofa, 2008. | © the artist

It’s time to pay respect to your furniture, otherwise they might get their own back and show you what they’re really made like Chinese artist Cao Hiu‘s hilariously frightful sculptures.

The Garden of Earthly Delights (1500-1505) by Hieronymus Bosch,

Hieronymus Bosch, The Garden of Earthly Delights, grisaille, oil on oak panels, 220 x 389 cm, Museo del Prado, Madrid, 1500-1505 | © Alonso de Mendoza/WikiCommons

Don’t be fooled by the exquisite detail of Bosch‘s seemingly beautiful masterpiece. The right panel is a riotous scene of terrifying proportions. We’re talking impaling, excrement, nightmarish torture and demons.

Self-Portrait as a Drowned Man (2011) by Jeremy Millar

Jeremy Millar, Detail of Self-Portrait as a Drowned Man (The Willows), 2011. Courtesy of the artist.

Inspired by a short story by Algernon Blackwood, Millar casts himself as the drowned protagonist whose body has been bored with holes by some unknown being. Its morbid, uncanny and intriguing.

Anatomical Pieces (1819) by Théodore Géricault

Theodore Gericault, Anatomical Pieces, 1819. | © Wiki Commons

French Romantic Théodore Géricault’s preparatory paintings of freshly severed limbs for his influential history painting, Raft of the Medusa, are not for the faint of heart. Little is known about these disconcertingly fascinating works apart from the fact Géricault visited the Paris morgue to make direct studies of human remains.

Sex I (2003) by Jake and Dinos Chapman

Jake and Dinos Chapman, Sex I, 2003. | © Jake and Dinos Chapman. All Rights Reserved, DACS 2016. Photo | Stephen White Courtesy White Cube

Death and general badtaste feature heavily in the Chapman brothers art. Here, they bring to life one of Goya‘s prints from his famous The Disasters of War series as if the dismembered bodies had decayed and rotted. It’s gleefully revolting, in true Jake and Dinos Chapman style.

Dulle Griet (c. 1562) by Pieter Bruegel the Elder

Pieter Bruegel the Elder, Dulle Griet, c. 1562. | © Wiki Commons

The great Flemish painter Pieter Bruegel the Elder‘s work is steeped in folklore, quite often of a dark disposition. Here, mythical character Mad Meg (Dulle Griet) leads an army of women to invade hell in a landscape of pure evil populated by hideous monsters.

Figure with Meat (1954) by Francis Bacon

Francis Bacon, Figure with Meat, 1954. | © Wiki Commons

Bacon was fascinated with butcher shops as a child, so animal caucuses feature in many of his paintings. Unfortunately his sitter doesn’t seem so happy to be flanked by dead meat.

Omnipresence-Surgery (1993) by ORLAN


A photo posted by Jir (@phonyboii666) on

Over a three year period in the 1990s, Orlan created plastic surgery-performances, in which she remained conscious during her operations. These intense ‘happenings’ have been described by blogger Janel Feliz as ‘visual cannibalism’.

The Face of War (1940) by Salvador Dalí

Salvador Dalí, The Face of War, 1940. Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam

The Surrealist maestro captures the trauma of war in this depiction of a withered corpselike face populated by more never-ending deathly faces, reiterating the cycle of conflict. Take that Scream mask.

The Young Family (2002) by Patricia Piccinini

Patricia Piccinini, The Young Family, 2002. Courtesy of the artist

Patricia Piccinini‘s family of pups suckling on their mother would make you coo if they weren’t a weird hairless human-animal hybrid.

Still Life performance (2003-2006) by Franko B

Franko B @contemporary_festival #contemporaryfestival #art #perfomanceart #bodyart #frankob A video posted by gaia muscas (@gaiasmus) on

In a similar vein (sorry) to Nitsch, the Italian artist brings the ritualism of the body to the fore in his blood letting performances.

Novelty (2016) by Golgo

Golgo, Novelty, 2016. | © the artist

The Mexican artist, who once wanted to be a surgeon, wants to literally get under his own skin, with his works that explores personal decay and the grotesque detail of the body.

Fleshlettes series by Jonathan Payne

From the series, Fleshlettes. | © Jon Payne

This series of polymer clay, acrylic and hair sculptures by Los Angeles-based sculptor might be small, but they are far from cute, more like nightmare-inducing.

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