A Survey of Evil Children in Art

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Not all children are cute, innocent, chubby-cheeked Renaissance cherubs. Some kids are just bad seeds… or so we’ve been alerted by film and literature. And so, we’ve scoured art history and contemporary art trends, looking for other warning signs. From classic tiny troublemakers to unintentionally frightening babies to some seriously kitschy evil kids, check out our dastardly brood in this slideshow. Tsk-tsk. We’re glad these aren’t ours. Did we miss someone important who definitely shouldn’t be left to his or her own devices? Let us know, quick, before something bad happens.

Let’s kick it off with a misunderstanding. Now, usually, if a toddler is gleefully urinating on you, laughing as he goes, that’s a bit of a red flag. Not so in this 1520s “paradigmatic marriage painting.” For Lorenzo Lotto’s Venus and Cupid, it’s a good thing. It’s a symbol of fertility, a gift to bless unknown newlyweds as future parents. For actual parents, it’s probably not so great.

This classic Weegee New York City crime scene photograph is entitled Their First Murder . Check out the gore-hungry, violent faces of this morbid child mob as they fight for a chance to gawk at some unfortunate corpse. That little girl in the middle? She gives us the chills.

Multi-talented artist and visionary David Lynch recognizes the potential for pure malevolence in a child with idle hands. By the the charred auras and clouds swarming around the little guy in his recent Boy Lights Fire painting, we can tell that the kid’s just not alright. It’s a Lynchian theme of sorts.

In this ancient, illuminated French manuscript, we see that the “problem child” problem goes way back. Here is the tale of Elisha, a holy prophet from the Hebrew Bible and the Qur’an, who was going up to Bethel when, allegedly, a group of local street urchins began to taunt him and call him “bald head.” So, “baldy” cursed them in the name of God and bears came out of the forest and mauled 42 of them. Let that be… uh… a lesson?

There’s something very off about the children and child-like maidens that populate Mark Ryden’s fantastical world. It doesn’t have to be as direct as ridiculously-kitschy, prettied-up Hitler youth, though he’s done that too, of course. Something about little round-faced girls being happily draped in dripping, bloody meat… Or maybe, it’s their unmoved, glassy stare as all kinds of surreal horrors unfold before them. Who are these kids?

Austrian-Irish painter, photographer and performance artist Gottfried Helnwein will definitely murder your childhood. His wasn’t so great, growing up in dark, sullen post-World War II Vienna in ruins. While the wounded child has been a consistent visual theme for the controversial artist, there is a definite strand of scary, self-possessed little tots and tweens that you wouldn’t want to be left alone with.

It’s never too clear whether Ray Ceasar’s subjects are precocious children or developmentally displaced adults. Always in a decadent setting, anachronistically dressed and deathly pale, these strange little monsters sprout spindly fingers, or tentacles, or arachnoid limbs, or they hang bat-like from ceilings in age-inappropriate Victorian fashions, or they mount adults like strange little parasites, but they always give us a bit of the creeps.

And now, enjoy these vintage Merry Krampus cards. You know, Krampus? He’s just like Santa for certain parts of Europe, only instead of giving naughty kids coal, he whisks the evil ones off in chains and baskets to drown them, eat them and transport them to Hell, where there may or may not be bears. Oh yes. These wee ones do look guilty, don’t they?

And now, for some video WTF, behold the work of artist Landon Meier whose “Hyperflesh” masks are so real-looking, this viral clip is basically performance art. OK, so, it’s not a real evil child, but if there’s something more frightening than a man-sized baby flopping wildly toward you with his giant, frowning, hyperrealistic head, we’re not sure what that would be.

You might remember this one. Danish-Norwegian artist Nina Maria Kleivan dressed up her one-year-old baby daughter as various evil dictators and caused a stir of controversy, but really, this might be one of those projects that is just too kitsch to be truly offensive. Anyway, The Onion thought of it ten years ago.

Did we miss some particularly evil baby art? You may now waaa-waaa in the comments.