Home

Themes in Art

Death

Memento Mori, vanitas, mortality — death is one of the most pervasive themes in art history. While many artworks celebrate afterlives in heaven or hell, death is most offen referenced as grim reminder of numbered days, and a powerful motivator to live well while you can. Every culture has rituals surrounding death, appearing in artwork as icons and colors. Hourglasses and wilted flowers for the Dutch, the Cuckoo bird in Japan, the Totenkopf in Germany.

Pentre Ifan Dolmen

Pentre Ifan Dolmen

3500 BCE

I am one of those gods, the Powers who effect the triumph of Osiris over his adversaries on the day of the Weighing of the Words : I am thy kinsman, Osiris.

The Book of the Dead

1550 BCE
Laocoön and His Sons

Laocoön and His Sons

200 BCE
Mummy with an Inserted Panel Portrait of a Youth

Mummy with an Inserted Panel Portrait of a Youth

80-100
Crucifixion and Last Judgement

Crucifixion and Last Judgement

Jan Van Eyck1430-1440
Cleopatra

Cleopatra

Giampietrino1524-1526
The Triumph of Death

The Triumph of Death

Pieter Bruegel the Elder1562
Still Life with Sparrow Hawk, Fowl, Porcelain and Shells

Still Life with Sparrow Hawk, Fowl, Porcelain and Shells

Clara Peeters1611
Laocoön

Laocoön

El Greco1604-1614
The Death of Decius Mus

The Death of Decius Mus

Peter Paul Rubens1616-1617
The Death of Marat

The Death of Marat

Jacques-Louis David1793
Executions on the Third of May

Executions on the Third of May

Francisco de Goya y Lucientes1814
Self-Portrait as Drowned Man

Self-Portrait as Drowned Man

Hippolyte Bayard1840
Lace Glove

Lace Glove

Hippolyte Bayard1843-1846
The Death of Moses

The Death of Moses

Alexandre Cabanel1850
The Burial at Ornans

The Burial at Ornans

Gustave Courbet1849-1850
Ophelia

Ophelia

John Everett Millais1851-1852
The Execution of Emperor Maximilian

The Execution of Emperor Maximilian

Édouard Manet1867
Camille Monet on her Deathbed

Camille Monet on her Deathbed

Claude Monet1879
The Angel of Death

The Angel of Death

Evelyn De Morgan1881
The death of Girardot in Bárbula

The death of Girardot in Bárbula

Cristóbal Rojas Poleo1883
The Misery

The Misery

Cristóbal Rojas Poleo1886
The Sick Violinist

The Sick Violinist

Cristóbal Rojas Poleo1886
The First and Last Communion

The First and Last Communion

Cristóbal Rojas Poleo1888
Ahasuerus at the End of the World

Ahasuerus at the End of the World

Adolf Hirémy-Hirschl1888
Night

Night

Ferdinand Hodler1890
The Assassination

The Assassination

James Ensor1890
Skeletons Fighting over a Hanged Man

Skeletons Fighting over a Hanged Man

James Ensor1891
A Funeral

A Funeral

Anna Ancher1891
The Bad Doctors

The Bad Doctors

James Ensor1892
Seaside Cemetery

Seaside Cemetery

Adolf Hirémy-Hirschl1897
Souls on the Banks of the Acheron

Souls on the Banks of the Acheron

Adolf Hirémy-Hirschl1898
Hope 1

Hope 1

Gustav Klimt1903
Ria Munk on her Deathbed

Ria Munk on her Deathbed

Gustav Klimt1912
Valentine Gode Darel in hospital bed

Valentine Gode Darel in hospital bed

Ferdinand Hodler1914
Death and Life

Death and Life

Gustav Klimt1910-1915

The town was on fire, the quarter where the poor Jews lived. They carried the bed and the mattress, the mother and the babe at her feet, to a safe place at the other end of town. But, first of all, I was born dead.

My Life - Marc Chagall Autobiography: Chapter 1

Marc Chagall1922
The War

The War

Marc Chagall1943

The selector used to find the pages shown above is:
template=artwork|writing|artist|movement|book|medium|subject|location|book, limit=200, subjects=6810, (template=artist|book|artwork|architecture), (template=writing, parent!=11473|11474|11475|11476|11477|11478|11479|11513|12439|12660|12702|13171|13510|13564|13800|14235|14546|14596|17316|17964|17965|17966|17982|18015|18017|18044|18194|18213|18307|18308|19003|19216|19275|19317|19371|19390|19402|19465|19502|19530|19610|21065|21138|21178), sort=sort=name, sort=year_completed