Happy Halloween! In celebration of this haunting holiday, we’re sharing some of our eeriest artworks.
1. Pablo Picasso, Still Life with Skull, Leeks, and Pitcher, March 14, 1945, 1945
Pablo Picasso (Spanish, 1881–1973), Still Life with Skull, Leeks, and Pitcher, March 14, 1945, 1945. Oil on canvas, 28 3/4 x 45 5/8 in. (73 x 115.9 cm). Museum purchase, Whitney Warren Jr. Bequest Fund in memory of Mrs. Adolph B. Spreckels, Grover A. Magnin Bequest Fund, Roscoe and Margaret Oakes Income Fund and Bequest of Mr. and Mrs. Frederick J. Hellman, by exchange, 1992.1. © Estate of Pablo Picasso / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
With stripes, swirls, and a cartoonish skull, Picasso’s still life is giving major Tim Burton vibes. Despite the dark subject matter (it was made near the end of World War II), the bright colors give the work a sense of hope. The skull acts as a memento mori (reminder of death), but it’s the leeks that really scare me.
2. Carolus-Duran, Portrait of Marie-Anne Carolus-Duran (The artist’s daughter), 1874
Carolus-Duran (Charles-Auguste-Émile Durand) (1838–1917), Portrait of Marie-Anne Carolus-Duran (The artist’s daughter), 1874. Oil on canvas, 51 1/4 x 33 1/2 in. (130.2 x 85.1 cm). Mildred Anna Williams Collection, 1941.26
Carolus-Duran was a French painter known for his stylish portraits of high society. While this is actually the artist’s daughter, we like to think of her as our very own Wednesday Addams. Don’t challenge this black-eyed beauty — lest she release her hellhound.
3. Beth Lipman, Candlesticks, Books, Flowers, and Fruit, 2010
Beth Lipman (b. 1971), Candlesticks, Books, Flowers, and Fruit, 2010. Blown glass and painted wood, 56 x 59 x 40 in. (142.2 x 149.9 x 101.6 cm). Foundation purchase, George and Dorothy Saxe Endowment Fund and Gift of Dorothy R. Saxe in memory of John E. Buchanan, Jr., 2012.3. © Beth Lipman
A witch’s dream, this 3D still life is Lipman’s version of a vanitas (an artwork reminding us life is fleeting). Evoking both funerals and oil spills, the sculpture includes an hourglass, snuffed-out candles, and even a dead bird, all in gleaming black.
4. Lucas Cranach the Elder and Workshop, Lucas Cranach the Elder, Hans Cranach, Portrait of a Lady of the Saxon Court as Judith with the Head of Holofernes, ca. 1537–1540
Lucas Cranach the Elder (1472–1553), Lucas Cranach the Elder and Workshop (1472–1553), Hans Cranach (1503–1537), Portrait of a Lady of the Saxon Court as Judith with the Head of Holofernes, ca. 1537–1540. Oil on wood panel, 31 7/16 x 21 7/8 in. (79.9 x 55.6 cm). Museum purchase, Mildred Anna Williams Collection, 1954.74
Beheading, but make it fashion. In this version of Judith with the Head of Holofernes, often depicted in Renaissance and Baroque artworks, a blasé Judith holds the head of the general she’s decapitated as if it’s another day of the week. The heroine just saved her city, and her outfit is still immaculate — not a feather out of place.
5. Tsukioka Yoshitoshi, Minamoto raiko tsuchigumo o kiru zu (Minamoto no yorimitsu preparing to kill the earth spider) from New Forms of 36 Ghosts, 1892
This gigantic spider is just one of the 36 ghosts, demons, skeletons, serpents, and apparitions in Yoshitoshi’s ultra-spooky series of woodblock prints. If this is the earth spider, should we also be worried about the sky spider?