Top 10 Disturbing Paintings Of Modern Historical Atrocities

Before the invention of photography, mankind
recorded its most frightening historical events via paintings. Such paintings often romanticized struggles,
or else presented the scenes in distorted ways, to further convey the terror experienced
at the time by our ancestors. This list features the ten most disturbing
paintings that depict historical atrocities and disasters from the past 450 years or so. While not photographs, these haunting images
nevertheless effectively capture the sheer horror of the events that occurred so many
years ago. 10. The Massacre of the Innocents (c. 1565-1567)
by Pieter Bruegel the Elder Bruegel, a Flemish painter of the Renaissance,
based this painting on the Biblical story of Herod the Great’s failed preemptive infanticide
strike, to prevent the newborn Jesus from eventually taking his throne. Now of course, Herod did not have an army
of mounted pike men. Nor do we usually think of the Holy Land as
being snow covered. In fact, the scene actually, despite its title,
appears to be set in the Netherlands, which was on the eve of a great revolt against Spanish
rule that lasted eighty years (1568 to 1648). Thus, for Bruegel, his fellow Dutch-speaking
Flemings are modern “innocents,” while Philip II of Spain is a new tyrant in the
manner of Herod. In any case, there is something eerie about
the impending dread of the armed soldiers in black about to do “something” to the
panicky civilians in the foreground. The image thus serves as a good foreboding
of things to come. 9. The Saint Bartholomew’s Day Massacre (ca.
1572-84) by François Dubois At the same time the Dutch Protestants battled
against Spanish Catholics, so too did Protestants and Catholics clash in France. Dubois’s chaotic painting depicts the massacre
by French Catholics of French Protestants in Paris, and the countryside that occurred
on St. Bartholomew’s Day in 1572. Anywhere from 5,000 to 30,000 people were
slaughtered in the massacre, which was only the most notorious of the violent French Wars
of Religion (1562–1598). 8. The Execution of Charles I (1649) by John
Weesop Just one year after the Thirty Years’ War
ended in 1648, an English king was executed for, among other things, his seemingly Catholic-esque
religious practices. The bloody scene of King Charles’s beheading
causes the lady in the foreground to faint. What makes the scene especially terrifying,
is what it meant for European monarchs. It let them know that they too could be subject
to execution if they did not cooperate with their people. The picture above shows just how bad the consequences
were for his actions. It also provided a grim foreshadowing of things
to come, as Charles would not be the last European monarch to suffer such a fate. Indeed, for as bloody as the English Revolution
was, the French Revolution of the next century would be far, far worse. 7. The Death of Marat (1793) by Jacques-Louis
David You most likely have seen this image in textbooks
when you get to the section about French Revolution. Marat, the so-called “friend of the people,”
was actually a blood-thirsty revolutionary. To stop him, the so-called “angel of assassination”
Charlotte Corday, decided to murder him. Marat had a painful skin condition that caused
him to spend massive amounts of time bathing. So, Corday claimed she had knowledge of a
plot against the revolutionary government to share with Marat. Marat agreed to see her while taking one of
his many bathes. It was a fatal decision, as she stabbed him
with a knife that cut into his lung, aorta, and heart. 6. Bonaparte Visits the Plague Stricken in Jaffa
(1804) by Antoine-Jean Gros For Napoleon, if fighting against the Ottomans
and British in the Middle East was not bad enough, he also had to contend with a demoralizing
outbreak of bubonic plague. This painting shows Napoleon trying to brave
the disease, so as to inspire his grotesquely suffering troops. This particular campaign did not end well
for the French, as Napoleon ultimately abandoned his army, and returned to France. In this painting, the French soldiers are
clearly the victims. In other scenes of the era, however, they
are hardly depicted in such a sympathetic light. 5. The Third of May 1808 (1814) by Francisco
Goya Unlike the English Revolution, the French
Revolution dragged on and so multiple changes of government. Eventually, Napoleon seized power and became
Emperor of the French. He also placed his brother on the throne of
Spain. Not surprisingly, Spaniards were not enthusiastic
about a foreign occupation, and so resisted the French invasion. The above image shows an unarmed, Christ-like
Spaniard being gunned down with fellow civilians by French soldiers, who almost resemble storm
troopers. 4. The Raft of the Medusa (1818–1819) by Théodore
Géricault In 1816, a French ship, headed for a French
colony in Africa, ran aground off the African coast. Stranded and desperate, the crew quickly constructed
a raft out of parts of the ship Medusa. While the well-off passengers escaped on lifeboats,
147 others boarded the raft to be towed by ropes from the lifeboats, toward the shore. As the people on the raft grew restless, those
on the lifeboats let the raft lift. It then drifted in the Atlantic Ocean for
thirteen days. When another ship came upon the raft to rescue
the survivors, only fifteen out of 147 remained alive, the others having perished in various
fashions, with some apparently having been cannibalized. Two survivors wrote a stirring account of
their experiences, which encouraged Géricault to depict the moment of the raft’s rescue. The painter even visited corpses at a morgue,
to make sure his painting accurately showed human death. If nothing else, this particular painting
shows us that violence and bloodshed can be committed by humans, even in times of relative
peace. 3. Souvenir of Civil War (1848) by Ernest Meissonier Meissonier’s work went beyond scenes of
the First French Empire, to depict events more contemporaneous with his own life. This particular painting provides a snapshot
of events that occurred halfway through the artist’s life. Meissonier served as a national guardsman
during the Revolution, and personally fought against the rebels at the barricade in the
scene he immortalized above. The painting essentially serves as a warning
about the human cost of civil war, a lesson that would sadly be taught again and again
in European and world history. 2. Explosion (1917) by George Grosz German artist Grosz volunteered for World
War I duty in 1914, and was discharged in 1915 after being hospitalized for sinusitis. As such, he lived in Germany during the catastrophic
war, that resulted in the loss and destruction of millions of German lives. Not only did he paint the apocalyptic portrait
of a fiery explosion, capturing the sentiments of disillusionment felt by many in the fourth
year of the war, he continued his protests in other forms, even after the War concluded. He was arrested for participating in the Spartacist
Uprising of January 1919, fined for insulting the army in 1921, and he left Germany in the
early 1930’s to avoid living under the Nazis. He moved to America and, from there, learned
of the new wave of horrors experienced by Europeans, at the hands of dictators in Italy,
Spain, and Germany. 1. Guernica (1937) by Pablo Picasso Roughly half a million people lost their lives
in the Spanish Civil War, from 1936 to 1939. Pablo Picasso’s painting depicts the horror
of German and Italian planes bombing a Spanish city in 1937. Hitler and Mussolini had come to the assistance
of fellow dictator Francisco Franco, which allowed Franco to win the war, and Hitler
and Mussolini to test out their weapons, prior to World War II. This poignant example of cubism shows men
and animals alike, in a distorted and bizarre scene of agony and terror. The painting is one of Picasso’s most well-known,
and frequently appears in art and history textbooks alike. The painting serves as a reminder that the
struggle against Fascism and Nazism actually began well before World War II officially
commenced in 1939.

58 Replies to “Top 10 Disturbing Paintings Of Modern Historical Atrocities”

  1. How did people make copies of paintings back then? Or was it just in one area and if you wanted to see it you had to go there


  3. there is a print from the 30 years war that shows Spanish troops Hanging Protestant Civilians en mass from a tree its called "The Last Sublime" by Jacques Callot i half expected that to be on hear though there are allot of prints from that war that could easly have made the list like that of the Sack of Magdaberg just a thought on a couple of pieces i felt where missing

  4. You really should have included l'Enfer by Georges Lareux. It might depict the Battle of Verdun, and the landscape really looks like hell. Choking smoke, a shell hole with a corpse and muddy water reflecting the flames and explosions from falling artillery, and the shattered remnants of a forest that was once there (supposedly this area of forest was shelled so heavily that the trees were blown into the air and before they landed were hit again and again, splintering into wooden shrapnel) dot the horribly deformed Mordor-esque landscape. Probably showing the horror of a battle specifically designed, according to the German commander who drew it up, to bait the French army into "bleeding itself white" by killing as many people as humanly possible. Somewhere between 350,000-500,000 people casualties were suffered on EACH side over nearly 10 months, roughly 2,300 people per day at the low end.

  5. Simon, I visited the Prado in the mid-70s. They had a room just for Goya's sketches of the horrors of the Inquisition. I had never seen anything so terrifying in my young life and that room stays with me to this day. I don't know if it's still there. I was hoping you'd have one of those ink sketches in this Top 10.

  6. Well done. I've seen Guernica in person. It's absolutely huge & brutal, taking up a whole wall. You can actually feel the bodies exploding.

  7. Sad, because humans don’t seem to learn from past mistakes. You can’t touch a hot stove, and expect not to be burned…

  8. Thanks again, ya'll. I love the artwork and hate what it represents. I do wonder if the painters of yesterday painted those scenes as not only remembrances to the horrors but also as unfortunately unheeded warnings to future people to avoid such things. They're haunting and beautiful in their way and I appreciate you taking the time and care to share them with us. Thanks again, Great work as usual.

  9. Literature was another medium in which one can see early ideas of communism and facism etc. Dostoyevsky was a writer around the time these ideas were developing and I see evidence of this in his works.

  10. Duke of Alba is what the Dutch painting is about not so much Phillip II.
    The raft painting was inspiration for a similar one done about the end of the Confederacy. Gilbert Gaul I think is the painter's name.

  11. Monarch's weren't afraid of the people, it was the 1% class that beheaded them. No difference between now and then. The poor pay the price while the rich eat caviar.

  12. Even though I concur there are many more explicit paintings done that show what humans can do to others when their minds are captives by ideologies that have humanity in the least of their priorities

  13. high taxes/living cost=prevent the average person from having more diverse businesses to choose to do from scratch.this lead to monopolies for giants=less new video games/cartoons/innovations for Cali

  14. Honestly Simon has become so snobby that I can't watch TopTenz anymore. He used to be entertaining but now he's just annoying to listen to. I come here to be entertained at night but now in every other video I get the impression that I'm being preached to by someone who sounds like they know what they're talking about. To be blunt, I think he should be replaced. I'm sure he's a great guy and could have a great career elsewhere. Until then, goodbye TopTenz

  15. I wouldn't call THE RENAISSANCE period, "modern".
    The term "Modern" applies to the end of the 19th Century through the 20th Century.

  16. You should have included Iri and Toshi Maruki's "Hiroshima Panels." It was and still is the biggest atrocity in human history in terms casualty per bomb ratio

  17. Interesting topic, but a 5 second close up view of a picture is hardly enough to take in the details and emotions depicted. Whu not keep the painting on screen and do a voice-over. I have seen some of these paintings and hardly had time to recognize them. Usually I really like your TopTenz videos, but this one was very disappointing.

  18. Simon in the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre The Catholics Massacred the French Protestants, Called Huguenots,
    . If you look at the Back Left of the Painting the Black Clad Lady is the Catholic Queen of France Named Catherine De Medici who instigated the whole event! Sorry to have to point out the Error But as an Historian and European History Teacher I can't let this one Slip By! I LOVE Your Videos!

  19. The St Bartholomew's Day massacre was of Huguenots – French Protestants invited under a flag of truce to attend the wedding of Margaret de Valois and Henri de Navarre. Some 3000 at the event and between 30000 and 70000 nationwide. It was understandably regarded as an extreme act of treachery made worse by the breach of trust. This is a rather unforgivable lapse.

  20. Its a shame Spolarium was not included on this. The Spoliarium is a painting by Filipino painter Juan Luna. The painting was submitted by Luna to the Exposición Nacional de Bellas Artes in 1884 in Madrid, where it garnered the first gold medal.

  21. You may have mixed something up with the St. Bartholomew's Day massacre. It was opposite arround, Catholics killed Protestants; which has led to a big refugee movement of protestants within Europe.

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