One of the great beauties of art is how malleable it is. For some, a great work of art is the Mona Lisa. For others, it is the architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright. For others still, it is the music of Garth Brooks. Love, admiration, and appreciation are subjective traits that we ascribe to mediums that speak to our souls, to the personal and innate aspects of our own tastes. It’s why some people love romantic comedies and why we here at Dread Central love horror (although we too can love a good rom-com).
In the world of paintings, there’s such a wide variety of styles that we’re able to enjoy those styles that tickle our imagination. Personally, I’ve always loved art that is darker and more muted. It’s why one of my favorite paintings is Henry Fuseli’s “The Nightmare” and why much of Picasso’s work, though incredible in its own way, doesn’t really do much for me. It’s why I adore Hieronymus Bosch’s “The Garden of Earthly Delights” and feel nothing when I see Lisa Frank plastered on school folders. When it comes to paintings that have appeal to horror fans, there may not be a painting more appropriate than Francisco Goya’s early 19th century piece “Saturn Devouring His Son”.
One of Goya’s 14 “black paintings”, a series of works that he painted onto the walls of his Spanish villa in his twilight years, “Saturn Devouring His Son” is a terrifying image, one that shows the Titan Chronos feasting upon the flesh of one of his children with a look of maniacal frenzy on his face. The body is already missing its head, blood running across its frame. Chronos’ fingers have dug themselves into the skin of his son while he appears eager to chomp down upon the left arm at the elbow. His body is contorted in its almost orgasmic ravenous hunger.
A stark difference between this and his earlier works, Goya’s final years were clearly a time of darkness and morbidity. Perhaps it was him coming to terms with his mortality as his body failed him (he was deaf and suffering from declined mental health when he painted this)? Perhaps it was his view of Spain and the changes the country was undergoing? Whatever the cause, the “black paintings” era of is a period of terrifying art from one of history’s most renowned painters.
In a video essay below, Nerdwriter goes deep into the history of the painting as well as imbues the video with his own personal observations. A fascinating and incredibly well-produced video, it’s a wonderful way to see how art, and people, can evolve.