Desperately seeking desperate art.
February 9, 2010 5:12 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for paintings on desperation.

Looking for famous paintings that depict some form of desperation (to use in a presentation). Famous as in made by a prolific painter instead of someone's talented but still tragically unknown neighbor. The depiction of desperation doesn't have to be very literal. The more subtle the better. Non-gory paintings are preferred.

Bonus points if the painting is colorful, and/or in the Renaissance or Baroque styles.
posted by howiamdifferent to Media & Arts (22 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
How's about Waterhouse's Miranda? Tempestuous!
posted by Greg Nog at 5:26 AM on February 9, 2010

Does Munch's The Scream count? Not quite sure...
posted by MegoSteve at 5:41 AM on February 9, 2010

Neither Renaissance nor Baroque, but how about The Scream by Edvard Munch?

There's also Poussin's The Massacre of the Innocents - or GĂ©ricault's The Raft of the Medusa...

And how about Sorrow by Van Gogh?
posted by HandfulOfDust at 5:42 AM on February 9, 2010

What about La Vie by Picasso? There's nothing quite like his blue period.
posted by Mizu at 6:05 AM on February 9, 2010

Munch painted a work called "Desperation." It's similar to the Scream, set on the same bridge.

How about Sappho by Antoine-Jean Gros?

Have a look at the works of Eugene Carriere. Very dark, symbolic with a lot of poverty and illness.
posted by fire&wings at 6:07 AM on February 9, 2010

A lot of Beksinski falls into this category. Here's my favorite.
posted by sanka at 6:16 AM on February 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

Take your Son, Sir!
posted by aquafortis at 7:28 AM on February 9, 2010

Goya's black paintings are pretty full of despair.
posted by mygothlaundry at 7:30 AM on February 9, 2010

Francis Bacon's work may be relevant, I thought first of his Three Studies at the Base of a Crucifixion.
posted by greenish at 7:42 AM on February 9, 2010

Macaccio's Adam and Eve, Brancacci Chapel frescoes, Florence Italy

posted by Elsie at 8:06 AM on February 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

posted by Elsie at 8:07 AM on February 9, 2010

Picasso's Weeping Woman series
posted by sively at 9:15 AM on February 9, 2010

Kollwitz's Death and the Mother always freaks me out in this way.

I don't know if photography's ok but some of Cindy Sherman's stuff has this feel to it too. Not so much the more well known film stills as the Disaster series stuff that gathers emotional momentum from the tropes of all that retro female horror/terror film stuff.
posted by ifjuly at 10:56 AM on February 9, 2010

Um, ooops. Saw you wanted paintings only now of course. Sorry. Mods can delete the above if they like.
posted by ifjuly at 10:56 AM on February 9, 2010

Mefites never disappoint. Many of the recommended works so far are exactly what I am looking for. I still a few more, though, so please keep 'em coming awesome folks!

ifjuly: actually, photography is just fine. Especially if the photography is in B&W and is historical.
posted by howiamdifferent at 11:33 AM on February 9, 2010

*still need a few more. Sigh.
posted by howiamdifferent at 11:39 AM on February 9, 2010

More Van Gogh with On the Threshold of Eternity.
posted by radiomayonnaise at 11:45 AM on February 9, 2010

I hate to say it, but Jackson Pollock's work could easily be interpreted to have a certain desperate quality.

Also, Hieronymus Bosch, though that is more literal.

Funny, someone said Christina's World...that was the second one that came to my mind. I thought it was weird that I thought of it...weirder still that someone else did.
posted by Xoebe at 1:13 PM on February 9, 2010

Most Caravaggio. All of it if you wanna fight about it.
posted by cmoj at 2:08 PM on February 9, 2010

Masaccio's Adam and Eve as suggested by Elsie above is indeed gruelling; but maybe Cranach's version is more fitting, given the 'desperate' theme?

And as photography's allowed, how about Dorothea Lange's Migrant Mother?
posted by HandfulOfDust at 4:58 PM on February 9, 2010

Ingres, Jupiter and Thetis.

Schiele, Portrait of Albert Paris Gutersloh. (Not the most desperate work of Schiele's by some distance, but probably the most appropriate for your purposes.)

He's not quite a household name, but Ivan Albright devoted the whole of his art to ruin and despair: That Which I Should Have Done I Did Not Do (The Door), And Man Created God in His Own Image, Into The World There Came A Soul Called Ida, Picture of Dorian Gray.
posted by Iridic at 7:33 PM on February 9, 2010

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