The Art of Darkness: A Treasury of the Morbid, Melancholic and Macabre (Art in the Margins) (Hardcover)

The Art of Darkness: A Treasury of the Morbid, Melancholic and Macabre (Art in the Margins) By S. Elizabeth Cover Image

The Art of Darkness: A Treasury of the Morbid, Melancholic and Macabre (Art in the Margins) (Hardcover)


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The Art of Darkness is a visually rich sourcebook featuring eclectic artworks that have been inspired and informed by the morbid, melancholic, and macabre.

Throughout history, artists have been obsessed with darkness – creating works that haunt and horrify, mesmerise and delight, and play on our innermost fears. Gentileschi took revenge with paint in Judith Slaying Holofernes while Bosch depicted fearful visions of Hell that still beguile. Victorian Britain became strangely obsessed with the dead and in Norway Munch explored anxiety and fear in one of the most famous paintings in the world (The Scream, 1893). Today, the Chapman Brothers, Damien Hirst and Louise Bourgeois, as well as many lesser known artists working in the margins, are still drawn to all that is macabre.

From Dreams & Nightmares to Matters of Mortality, Depravity & Destruction to Gods & Monsters – this book introduces sometimes disturbing and often beautiful artworks that indulge our greatest fears, uniting us as humans from century to century. 

But, while these themes might scare us – can’t they also be heartening and beautiful? Exploring and examining the artworks with thoughtful and evocative text, S. Elizabeth offers insight into each artist’s influences and inspirations, asking what comfort can be found in facing our demons? Why are we tempted by fear and the grotesque? And what does this tell us about the human mind?

Of course, sometimes there is no good that can come from the sensibilities of darkness and the sickly shivers and sensations they evoke. These are uncomfortable feelings, and we must sit for a while with these shadows – from the safety of our armchairs. 

Artists covered include Pablo Picasso, Georgia O'Keeffe, Francisco de Goya, Leonora Carrington, John Everett Millais, Tracey Emin, Vincent van Gogh, Barbara Hepworth, Paul Cezanne, and Salvador Dalí, as well as scores more. With over 200 carefully curated artworks from across the centuries, The Art of Darkness examines all that is dark in a bid to haunt and hearten. 

This book is part of the Art in the Margins series, following up on The Art of the Occult, which investigates representations of the mystical, esoteric and occult in art from across different times and cultures.

S. Elizabeth (aka Mlle Ghoul) is a Florida-based writer specialising in art, the macabre and the supernatural. She is a staff writer at Haute Macabre and has written for Coilhouse, Dirge and the blog Death & the Maiden. S. Elizabeth was also the co-creator of The Occult Activity Book (vol 1 and 2) and runs two successful blogs: Ghoul Next Door ( and These Unquiet Things (

Product Details ISBN: 9780711269200
ISBN-10: 0711269203
Publisher: Frances Lincoln
Publication Date: September 20th, 2022
Pages: 240
Language: English
Series: Art in the Margins
"Dante had Virgil. You have S. Elizabeth. And I cannot imagine a finer guide through the labyrinthine darkness of artistic self-expression. Here the intricate inter-twinings of creativity, the human psyche, and the inescapable, multitudinous dark form a matryoshka of shadows. Here there be monsters, but you need not beware. For, as you shall learn within these pages, we are each part and parcel of the dark."—Maika, Liminal Flares podcast

"The Art of Darkness is an antidote to posivibes. With this book, S. Elizabeth built a museum of death, ruination, madness, bad gods, and bodily aberration—and here she guides you through the history of macabre art with insight, humour, and reverence for the unpleasant thoughts that keep you up at night."—Peter Counter, Be Scared of Everything: Horror Essays

"Every plunge into darkness deserves a guide, and S. Elizabeth sets the ideal pace for such a journey, dividing the depths so that one can appreciate varieties in tone, feeling, and purpose. Having this voice in your head as you travel — by turns methodical, curious, reverent, witty, and wise — creates the experience of being led by a faithful artistic companion and fellow night-traveler."—T. Bloom, Marketing & Creative Design, Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab

"The Art of Darkness appeals to me not only as an art enthusiast and voracious consumer of images, but as a collector and dealer whose eye is also drawn towards the dark. One might wonder at the appeal of a Victorian memorial with weeping figures or a Catholic saint figure with bleeding wounds--but I find that those who enjoy this kind of imagery have had to endure a lot of sadness and sturm und drang, which we must hide behind a placid exterior in polite society. The artwork allows us to sit with difficult feelings and express them in a beautiful way. It becomes a hand on one’s shoulder and a light in the dark. That’s just what The Art of Darkness offers in a thoughtfully chosen collection of works that run the gamut from high to low, ancient to contemporary; iconic to unacknowledged. Like her spectacular, long-standing blog Unquiet Things, it’s a dizzying roundup of everything I enjoy alongside new discoveries I can’t wait to explore. It rivals Umberto Eco’s “On Ugliness” for insightful and inspired curation on a fascinating subject. An approachable, enjoyable read for both the curious novice and jaded aesthete."—Kate Kierstead, proprietor of Roses & Rue Antiques

"In the desolate gloom, we find a light. Author S. Elizabeth is the coolest of Cool Aunts with her exquisite taste, quick wit, and profound empathy; The Art of Darkness is your permission to explore that which the daytime world seeks to conceal. Here you’ll find Egon Schiele and Dorothea Tanning — familiar artists whose work struck us in the face as we wandered museum halls — alongside those creating right now: Nona Limmen, Becky Munich, Bill Crisafi. You’ll be guided past gods and ghosts, roam dreams and ruins, and witness lunacy and alienation, safe in the company of your capable guide. And you’ll emerge a little wiser, perhaps a little stranger, but all the better for it. So open the cover and come on in… the dark is warm."—Sonya Vatomsky, author of Salt Is For Curing