Posted by: nicodemomanifesto | October 20, 2009


I’ve really started to feel the effects of Fall lately. It’s getting pretty cold, there are leaves everywhere, and now it’s pretty much always dark when I wake up. I don’t necessarily mind any of this, actually I quite like it. What I enjoy most is the inherent creepiness of the season. The skies are almost perpetually grey, the trees are bare and creaky, and of course there’s an influx of horror movies in theatres because of Halloween. In spirit of Autumn here are two pieces of art which I feel capture the sensations of the season – both of which include skeletons!
Skull Of A Skeleton With Burning Cigarette by Vincent Van Gogh

Skull Of A Skeleton With Burning Cigarette by Vincent Van Gogh

This little guy here is ‘Skull Of A Skeleton With Burning Cigarette’ by Vincent Van Gogh. It was meant to be a study of the human anatomy – but it turned out to be more of a sarcastic piece with the addition of the cigarette. The reason I chose this painting is because it’s comedic yet slightly frightening at the same time. I’ve always been interested in this combination because it seems almost oxymoronic, but if done well it really works! This painting seems almost cinematic, as if it should have been in a movie like Beetle Juice or something. Simply by sticking a cigarette in the skeleton’s mouth, he takes on a sort of personality and becomes more of a character rather than a bunch of bones. The connection I made between this painting and Fall is pretty obvious, I guess – it’s partly because of its creepiness but also how fall is the transition towards the death of nature, just as a skeleton represents the death of a human.
Spirit Of The Forest - Odilon Redon
This piece done in charcoal is called ‘Spirit of the Forest (Specter from a Giant Tree)’ by Odilon Redon (who, like Van Gogh, is a Post-Impressionist). I don’t really find this one funny, mostly just eerie. It reminds me of the tales I used to read in children’s horror-story anthologies. There would always be one about a kid who walks through a forest or graveyard alone as a shortcut and they end up meeting some kind of supernatural being. I like how this ‘forest spirit’ has a skeletal frame which extends to branches at its extremities. The head is quite strange because it isn’t a skull, rather it’s some not-quite-human face, staring in the distance as if curious. I also like how the spirit is putting its hands on its hips, as if presenting itself to you. Overall, the colour scheme is very warm and dark, as if you truly are lost in some ominous forest. Everything about the piece is a little bit messy – which I feel enhances the fantasy of the whole scene.
Basically, what I really like about fall are the scary parts of it. Of course there’s the whole ‘getting cozy by a fire’ side, but for me personally, it’s the spookiness that trumps all.


  1. Interestingly the Van Gogh piece was on a David Sedaris novel cover. Only thing I had time to notice, I’ll settle down to this soon 😀

  2. I like how even as a child, Nick did not settle for one horror story at a time, he tackled the collections.
    Personally, I think that getting cozy by a burning church in the middle of a forest at midnight while every image of jesus on the crucifix inside is screaming totally trumps spooky. It’s all about togetherness, ya know.

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