The beauty of Beksinski’s nightmares


Harrison Army, Staff

I often find myself in the loop of mindless procrastination—rummaging through Youtube videos while I avoid my homework. Most of this time is spent on trivial subjects, such as video games or sports. But every now and then I stumble upon something much more thought-provoking. 

Recently, I came across a video on a Polish artist named Zdzislaw Beksinski. It wasn’t the video that captivated my attention, rather the artist and his anomalous work mesmerized me. 

Born in 1929 in Sanok,Poland, Beksinski spent most of his life creating surreal dystopian oil paintings with precise detail. He went to school for architecture and also did photography as a hobby. In  the late-1960s through mid-1980s, Beksinski created his most famous works of art, which he called his “fantastic period.” 

The paintings themselves address the themes of death and decay, producing feelings of anxiety and dread in the audiences. Many include ghastly figures reduced to bone, or landscapes and buildings decayed away. Skeletal silhouettes stare back; twisted and contorted creatures morph together; cathedrals turn to grim monoliths, all dull in color schemes.

Beksinski left all of his paintings untitled, declaring that their meaning should be left to interpretation by the viewer. Still, they draw parallels to World War II detailing helmeted skulls, tanks, and the burning debris of buildings. 

When Beksinski was 10 years old, Nazi Germany took control of Poland. His inspiration most likely came from the tragedy he witnessed at such a young age, similar to the way J.R.R Tolkien’s experiences during World War I inspired his timeless masterwork “The Hobbit”. 

But even with the hellishly harrowing depictions Beksinski presents, a beauty lives within them, like a song singing inside of me, sung by the paintings. There is a wonder to them, a mystery that leaves me in awe of their magnificence. 

Strangely, the surreal images produce a peaceful feeling within me, a feeling I’ve only previously found from reading Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Masque of the Red Death”. Beksinski encapsulates the beauty in death so perfectly in his art that all I can do is stare back in amazement and let the paintings entrance me.     

The paintings stand as a reminder of the limited time we have as humans. Beksinski died in 2005 after  being stabbed by a 17-year-old. The nature of his death, frightening and grim, coexists with the images he gave to this world. Beksinski’s paintings will forever remain within my memory and eternally leave me in awe.