The spooky, uncanny and macabre from the Permanent Collection

The spooky, uncanny and macabre from the Permanent Collection

As we embark on the spookiest day of the year, the staff have been rummaging around in the permanent collection (whilst wearing white gloves and abiding by our art handling training, of course) and we have come up with the Top Ten spooky, sinister, uncanny, eerie and macabre artworks to get you in a ghoulish mood:

1. Undergrowth with Skulls by Charles Andrew, Oil on Canvas.

A cache of scary skulls lying in the undergrowth has caused us to ask, what has happened here?  The skulls with their pointy teeth look to have been dangerous animals in their own right, begging the question what type of man or beast has done away with these creatures?

(c) Royal West of England Academy; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

2. The Little Mirror by Anne Redpath RWA, Oil on Canvas.

The cold, dark colours in this painting conjure a spooky scene, and the little doll-like figures adorning the bottom of the mirror really give the painting an uncanny feeling, like the dolls are trapped, bound to the mirror. Forever.

(c) BRIDGEMAN; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

3. Nude by Anthony Fry RWA, Oil on canvas.

The white nebulous background of this image reminds us of ectoplasm and that is before we even begin to question what has happened to the arms and legs of this poor female nude.

(c) Anthony Fry; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

4. Mother and Daughter II by Anthony Whishaw RWA, Acrylic & ink on paper.

We love this slightly Picasso-esque picture by Anthony Whishaw. Whishaw is known for his unexpected figurative hybrids and there is something bird-like about the mother depicted on the right of the painting. The blue sweeping objects remind us of tail feathers, reminiscent of Alfred Hitchcock’s classic horror film, The Birds.

(c) Anthony Whishaw RA; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation


5. Strata Shadows by John Eaves RWA, Oil on canvas.

The title of this piece tipped us off to its sinister undertones. Strata – an archaeological term meaning layers – refers to earth and stone built up over centuries, and the mysteries concealed beneath.

(c) John Eaves; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

6. Masque by Douglas Portway, Oil & collage on paper.

The over-sized features and hollowed eyes of the decapitated head which looms in from the left of this painting resemble a strange spectre. The background is made up of a combination of shadows and peculiar apparitions.

(c) Simeon Portway (son); Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation


7. Ophelia by James Martin RWA, Oil on board.

From the famous Shakespearean tragedy Hamlet, Ophelia goes mad and climbs a tree, before drowning in a brook when the branch she is sitting on breaks, plunging her to her death in the dark waters below.  The large waterbirds and fish in this image serve to highlight the horrors of Ophelia’s watery end. Presenting the image from above allows the viewer to imagine they are seeing her laid in a grave, and the claustrophobic composition is suggestive of the confines of a coffin.

(c) Royal West of England Academy; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation


8. Psyche Dipping Her Pitcher in the River Styx by Paul Ayshford Methuen, Oil on canvas.

Another literary reference, here we have Psyche being plagued by monsters. These scary, serpentine dragons are enough to give you the creeps, but scarier still – they have been sent with a foreboding warning for Psyche too ‘Stay away! Stay away’.

(c) James Methuen-Campbell; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

9. Steam Engine by Julian Trevelyan RA, Oil on board.

Known for his surrealist work, Julian Trevelyan enrolled at Atelier Dix-Sept engraving school, where he learned etching. He worked alongside artists including Max Ernst, Oskar Kokoschka, Joan Miró and Pablo Picasso. At first glance one might be mistaken in thinking this was cheery colourful scene, without malice or ill content. However, the driver, as if under a spell or possessed by a spirit, has little regard for safety charging his engine into the harbour.



10.  Pizza Hut by Danny Markey RWA, Oil on board.

For those of you who have been to a Pizza Hut on an evening in Half Term you will know why this image is scary!

(c) Royal West of England Academy; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

We hope you’ve enjoyed our spooky selection tonight. Happy Halloween from all at the RWA!



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