Death + Art Guide

Call numbers for browsing:
Library of Congress — N8217 D5
Dewey — 759 and others



Paintings depicting death (Wikipedia)

Paintings on the theme of death (Wikipedia)

Death and Death in art (Wikimedia Commons)
Hundreds of high quality, public domain images in a variety of mediums.

Death and Dying Resources (New York University)
Art, film and literature related to death and dying, with lengthy descriptions and commentary.

Morbid Anatomy
“Surveying the interstices of art and medicine, death and culture,” the Morbid Anatomy blog is an excellent source for links to and commentary on online exhibitions and medical history museums, cabinets of curiosities, contemporary and antiquated artists and copious amounts of pretty gross yet intriguing images. Be sure to check out their Flickr gallery.


Art & DeathArt & Death
(2008). Chris Townsend.
London; New York: I.B. Tauris. 157 pages.

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This slim tome examines Western artists’ conceptualization of death, focusing on the work of Francis Bacon, Damien Hirst, Tracey Emin, Nan Goldin, Ralph Eugene Meatyard, Derek Jarman and Shimon Attie.

Death ShowcaseDeath’s Showcase
(2001). Ariella Azoulay.
Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. 303 pages.

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A postmodern analysis of death and art. According it its introduction: “Between the museum and photography, the authorized display of death oscillates between a spectacle and an exhibit. The following book seeks to understand the conditions that make such display possible. This book is about the public display of death in contemporary culture” (p.4).

Le Dernier PortraitLe Dernier Portrait
(2002). Emmanuelle Héran; Musée d’Orsay.
Paris: Réunion des Musées Nationaux. 239 pages.

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A remarkable exhibition catalog, unfortunately (?) in French, but containing several photos of death photography, death masks, paintings, and more.

Six Feet UnderSix Feet Under: Autopsy of Our Relation to the Dead
(2006). Kunstmuseum Bern.
Bielefeld/Leipzig, Deutschland: Kerber. 222 pages.
Exhibition guide (pdf)

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Exceptionally stylish exhibition catalog of death-themed contemporary art, with accompanying essays in German and English.

Library of Dust
Library of Dust
(2008). David Maisel.
San Francisco: Chronicle Books. 108 pages.
Online project page

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A stunning collection of images by photographer David Maisel. Copper canisters filled with the unclaimed cremains of individuals long forgotten. The canisters, some dating back to the nineteenth century, are ravaged by time and moisture, revealing brilliant blooms of chemical color in an orgy of oxidation. A mesmerizing, can’t miss photographic delight.

La Muerte Niña
(1999). Museo Poblano de Arte Virreinal.
Puebla, Pue., México: El Museo. 81 pages.

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This exhibition catalog contains full color reproductions (mostly paintings, some photographs) and essays about Mexican funerary portraiture of and ceremonies for children (in Spanish and English).

Humana Fragilitas: The Themes of Death in Europe from the 13th Century to the 18th Century
(2002). Eds. Pierroberto Scaramella & Alberto Tenenti.
Clusone, BG [i.e. Bergamo, Italy]: Ferrari editrice: Circolo culturale Baradello. 284 pages.

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From Death and Back
(2005). PBS: How Art Made the World, Episode 5.
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From Death and Back looks at themes of death (or the actual stuff of it — skulls and bones oh my) in the art of ancient civilizations: the Moche of Peru, the people of ancient Jericho, the Aztecs and the Etruscans. The PBS companion site contains text, image galleries, video clips, links and lists of further readings.

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