Ever wondered why we are fascinated and confused by beautiful paintings that have ominous images?

Brain researchers in the field of Neuroscience have increasingly turned their eyes on art in an effort to understand how we see these works of art.

There is a deep portion of the brain, the amygdala, which triggers BOTH negative & positive emotions. So when we see a frightening image surrounded by beautiful bright complimentary color, the brain is perturbed. We hate it but we love it! What’s a brain to do?!

Paul Gauguin and Egon Schiele perhaps unconsciously combined the beautiful with the sinister.

"Spirit of the Dead Watching", 1892 Gauguin (1848-1903)

“Spirit of the Dead Watching”, 1892
Gauguin (1848-1903)

Gauguin was a brilliant artist who is called The Father of Modern Art. He was also a pretty nefarious character deserting his wife and children so he could live in “ecstasy, calmness and art” on the island of Tahiti.

In the above painting, notice the sinister figure in the background. Kinda scary, huh? But, oh, what gorgeous color!

“Wally with a Red Blouse”, 1913
Egon Schiele (1890-1918)

A melancholy eccentric, Egon Schiele (Austrian), often drew his models from the top of a ladder looking down capturing unusual, arresting compositions.

Look at the contorted, twisted figure in Egon Schiele’s drawing. The expression on the face is…confused? Angry? Sad? Yet the figure has a certain innocence and the combinations of color are thrilling!

These images of dark and light, negative and positive are indeed disturbing.  But we are drawn to them.  Could the artists be showing us life in all its mystery?

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