Every artist is unique, from the art style to the art medium there’s a level of authenticity we expect from an artist. However, the audience is often biased in thinking that there are specific qualities in a work that make it worthy of being called “art”. Some of the major qualities we look for in art are pleasant aesthetics, a deeper meaning, and distinctiveness. But, certain artists take the uniqueness of their work to another level that might, well, not be considered real art by many. In this article, we look at some of the weirdest paintings so that you can judge if it really is “art”.
Top 10 weirdest paintings in the World
Following are the weirdest paintings of all time that completely blow the limit on the weirdness scale. The paintings are arranged in increasing order of bizarreness ranging from a score of 1 which is the lowest score to 10 meaning maximum weirdness.
The Son of Man (1946) by René Magritte (Score 1)
Let’s talk about the first impressions, an apple over what would have been a quite decent portrait of a man. The art style is not too realistic and doesn’t seem very detailed or intricate. However, the precise placement of the apple over the man’s face does arouse one’s interest about its symbolism. The more you look at it, you’ll keep finding an increasing number of details that are illogical and bizarre. These characteristics are at the heart of Surrealism.
Even though René Magritte completed this work over 70 years ago the meaning is still relevant and in fact timeless. After the levitating apple, you’ll notice the man’s left hand is attached backward, the elbow sticking out in the front. Every little detail here has meaning. His eyes looking over the apple stealthily, the brick wall, and ominous clouds over the blue sea all have meaning. The painting aims to highlight how all that we see around us is a mere facade. This mask over the truth arouses interest but also a conflict – ‘are we really ready to face the truth?’
Saturn Devouring his Son (1819-1823) by Francisco Goya (Score 2)
‘Saturn Devouring his Son’ is certainly not a pretty picture, but that’s what makes it interesting. One might describe this painting as grotesque, dark, and gruesome, but you would still want to know the ‘why’ behind this painting. Imagine having this painted on the walls of your home. Not a pleasant sight to wake up to, but Goya did exactly that. Weirdly enough Francisco Goya initially painted this piece and 13 other similar paintings directly on the walls of his house.
The inspiration behind this painting comes from Greek Mythology where a King ate his son based on a prophecy. The prophecy put forward that the King would be overthrown by one of his offsprings.
Magdalena Ventura with Her Husband and Son (1631) by Jusepe de Ribera (Score 3)
What grabs our attention first in this painting is the complete bizarreness of the event taking place. However, when you hear the story behind this work it’s still equally bizarre but extremely empowering. Why is a man feeding a baby and why is the breast positioned so oddly, in the middle of the picture? Don’t look at me, I have no clue myself! But I did do some research. So this is a portrait of a woman feeding her son while her husband stands at the back.
The painting itself has some information about the woman written in Latin on the right side. Her name is Magdalena Ventura and she started to grow prominent facial hair in her 30s. The reason why this happened is not clear. The portrait features her with a long, unkempt beard, looking straight at us with a stern look on her face. Her stance embodies her strength in the absence of the slightest strain of insecurity. The odd positioning of the breast may be attributed to artistic liberty so as to keep it at the center of the viewer’s visual field, drawing attention to its importance.
The Gardener (1587–1590) by Giuseppe Arcimboldo (Score 4)
This is a perfectly good-looking vegetable bowl, what’s weird here you ask? Well, there are a couple of unsettling features in this painting. First, the bowl for some reason is floating mid-air. Next, the vegetables don’t follow any laws of physics in the way they have been stacked up. However, if you change your perspective only slightly, you will see a completely different picture. On turning the painting upside down you will immediately recognize a human face! The bowl acts as a black hat similar to what gardeners wore during the time. According to some analysts the vegetables also faintly resemble female and male genitals. The reason for this is that it alludes to the Greek God Priapus, the protector of gardens.
The Lovers (1928) by René Magritte (Score 5)
Magritte’s art makes another appearance on the weird paintings list, but the inspiration for this painting is rather beautiful. The bizarreness of two people kissing with white sheets over their heads is balanced by the softness of the painting. Through this painting, the artist tries to convey the idea that ‘love is blind’. The Lovers don’t see us or each other, in the moment there is no judgment, internal or external, this is where true love is born. No matter how weird the painting looks you’re bound to feel the tender love of ‘The Lovers’ once you understand the symbolism.
American Gothic (1930) by Grant Wood (Score 6)
The long pale faces, dark clothes, stern expression, and a pitchfork… Yikes! This painting gives me the creeps. One look at the man’s hand holding the pitchfork and you can almost hear the background music of a thriller movie. The painting is a simple portrait of a farmer alongside his daughter with small details that make it clear that the painting is from the 20th century. Today the painting has become one of the most recognized pieces of art in America. The painting probably owes its popularity to its sheer gloominess and oddity.
The Hands Resist Him (1972) by Bill Stoneham (Score 7)
The number of horror movies with possessed dolls in the past decade makes your head run in the supernatural direction the moment you look at this painting by Stoneham. It won’t be completely wrong to think in that direction. ‘The Hands Resist Him’ has been named the most haunted painting on the internet. According to Stoneham, the painting is derived from a picture of him and a girl from the neighborhood when he was 5 years old.
When making the piece he added some important details. These include the hands reaching toward him from the glass door and making the girl look like a lifeless doll and blurring his face. Unlike most other paintings, the artist thoroughly explained all the details of his work. Stoneham says that the hands behind the glass door represent possibilities. Every hand you hold will lead to a different future. The glass stands for the thin veil between reality and a dream. Lastly, the doll represents a companion. Thus, viewers are expected to project themselves in place of the boy, feeling what he feels. Even though the painting was called haunted on the internet only as a joke, I would still not put it on my wall.
Poker Game (1894) by Cassius Marcellus Coolidge (Score 8)
I don’t know about you but dogs never struck me as the kind that would enjoy a grim game of poker. The weirdest thing about the painting is how realistically Coolidge has represented the dogs as people, with detailed facial expressions and red eyes from all the whiskey. One of the oddest details in the painting is the second dog from the left, who looks at you directly in the eye almost as if it’s plotting against you.
The Ugly Duchess (1513) by Quentin Massys (Score 9)
Apart from the appearance of the woman in the painting, her attire is quite weird for the 21st-century audience. Her clothes are suggestive and point toward her flirtatious nature as she holds a rose in her right hand. Her rather masculine facial features along with prominent wrinkles on the breasts are highlighted by a tight corset. Even though the title describes her as “ugly”, it has been found that she was probably dealing with a genetic disorder that leads to such appearance.
Gabrielle d’Estrées and One of Her Sisters (1594) by Anonymous (Score 10)
The painting depicts two women who are sisters, and no they aren’t doing what you think they are. Unlike what most people would think, the painting is not supposed to be erotic in any way. The woman who is getting her nipple pinched is Gabrielle d’Estrées, a mistress to King Henry IV. The pincher on the other hand is her sister Julienne-Hyppolite-Joséphine. While I try to understand how this event is merely “affectionate”, let’s talk about the various interpretations of this piece.
According to the Louvre Museum where the painting is housed, the nipple pinching gesture indicates that Gabrielle is pregnant with the King’s child. To further strengthen this claim it has been said that the woman in the background seems to be sowing clothes for the new baby. No matter how you interpret this painting, it is indubitably one of the weirdest paintings I’ve ever seen.
Analyzing that many weird paintings was sure unsettling, but so much fun! These paintings make you think about how wild an artist’s imagination can run when they don’t bother about judgment. No matter how bizarre a painting is, the effort, idea, and boldness behind the work deserve due appreciation. Now, it’s time for your opinion. What do you think was the weirdest painting on this list? Do share your suggestions in the comment section below.
If you liked this article, here’s something that might interest you: