Cezanne riveted us with his bright still-life paintings of fruit and lush fabrics and their slightly altered perspective.
Starry, swirling skies, multi-colored blooms and luminous cafes made van Gogh a favorite,
and DaVinci always fascinated us with his machines, forward thinking, perfect dimensions.
Degas gave us a back-stage look at enigmatic ballerinas,
and Picasso used shapes and shadows to change the art world.
We are used to seeing certain things from certain artists.
We expect to see skinny walking skeletons dressed like Santa from Tim Burton, or dark and morose, unfortunate children sketched in ink by Edward Gorey, but we do not assume the classic artists to have a dark side. We expect soft, blurry flowers and gardens from Monet, or achingly perfect depictions of people sitting near a window by Vermeer.
Although we know van Gogh had a dark side by the famous and terrible story of his ear, we do not see his angst in his glorious pictures, unless we look for it. The Philadelphia Museum of Art had a display of many impressionists. I was very ready to feel bright and cheerful and to soak in the glow from the flowers and sunshine shown in the paintings. I was not ready to see some of the more dark works of some of these same artists.
As I turned a corner I came across and small but stunning painting of skulls by Cezanne. The feel of his work was there, but the subjects opened a new corner in my brain. I was not used to this. This was new, and I was practically shaking.
The slightly upturned table so familiar to Cezanne's works was not covered in a rich fabric and lovely fruits and a bowl. In this painting it had death upon it.
Van Gogh has the ability to make you want to be part of his paintings. His cafe glows, his fields sway, and his flowers remind us of nature's beauty. And his bat shows us of the dark side we so rarely see in his art.
And two rats also by van Gogh--another surprise.
And here is a deliciously bleak Picasso.
A skull by Degas.
DaVinci was the slight exception. His medical drawings, machines, and inventions could lend themselves to the slightly macabre. Here is an example.
So yes, we have Tim Burton, Edward Gorey and Charles Addams--but we also have the web. We can find the dark and mysterious paintings and pictures from impressionists, post-impressionists, modernists and any famous artists that only the curators and collectors previously had access to.
And I am thrilled.