Watch Your Step: Creepy Staircases in Art History

Scary staircases are not there just for decorative purposes – they hypnotize, they challenge the intellect, they set a morbid tone that lingers long after you’ve averted your gaze. They have personality.

Toyen, a Tale of War and Friendship

“In front of our house in the former Husova třída in Žižkov, usually at the time when workers from the Karlín factories were going home, I often encountered a strange but interesting girl,” recalls Czechoslovak Nobel prize-winner Jaroslav Seifert in his 1982 memoir All the Beauties of the World. At a time when women’s attire…

M.C. Escher – Relativity (1953)

Fascinated with science and mathematics, Dutch artist Maurits Cornelis Escher tested the perception of reality in his highly elaborate lithographs, woodcuts and mezzotints. Although associated with Surrealism due to the fantastical imagery he depicted, the Dutchman never saw himself as belonging to any movement and approached his art with the rigor of a scientist and…

Remedios Varo – Rheumatic Pain I (1948)

Largely unknown outside of Mexico, today Remedios Varo is still one of the many forgotten female artists of Surrealism. Just a quick glance at her work, that blends alchemy, the occult, architecture and science, will make you realize that the solitary women she portrayed were often tortured and enclosed, trapped in cages and towers –…

Max Ernst – The Virgin Spanking the Christ Child (1926)

A true innovator and provocateur, German artist Max Ernst was one of the leading figures of Surrealism and the Dada art movements, blending in mythology, Christian iconography and Freudian psychology in his dark, dreamlike artworks. The gruesome experience of fighting during World War I made him realize that the world was irrational, objective reality being…

Wassily Kandinsky – Composition IX (1936)

With the new discoveries in science, including Einstein’s famous theory of relativity at the beginning of the 20th century, artists started questioning the limited, illusory reality they were experiencing. There must be more beyond the physical world, they thought. Art became a way to test the notion that a deeper, spiritual dimension was within reach…