We can all agree that this is the first time millennials have been faced with the idea of a real and imminent threat to our world. A looming apocalypse so to speak, and not the ‘cross-eyed straggler with a cardboard sign’ type, but the ‘Leonardo DiCaprio endorsed, Trump is now in charge of the world, bees are falling out of the sky’ type, and it's scary.
Though it all may feel very real and quickly escalating, let’s not forget that every generation has predicted an apocalypse around the corner for as long as humans have been able to comprehend the idea of floods, fire and death everywhere, which is a reaaalllyyyy long time. To prove it, The Public House of Art has compiled a selection of grotesquely exquisite apocalyptic art, from centuries ago until just a few days ago. Not much has changed yet, and we can all take a little comfort in that. We’re just a dark and pessimistic species it seems, but then there’s art.
Silos Apocalypse, Spain. The Woman and the Beast. 1091-1109.
This Spanish manuscript from about a thousand years ago envisioned a seven headed serpent pouring a flood onto the Earth. Strange, friendly looking beasts we’d say, but the field of naked corpses to the right suggests otherwise.
Pieter Bruegel the Elder. Fall of the Rebel Angels. 1562.
The Northern Renaissance was an age of uncertainty and of great social, political, and religious change, no wonder apocalyptic visions ran amok through daily thoughts. This work by Pieter Bruegel the Elder shows the Fall of the Rebel Angels, those traitorous, funky-looking angels who opted to side with Satan in the impending war.
Gustave Dore, God Destroys the World in a Flood. 1866.
Engraver Gustave Dore’s illustrated Bible was a huge hit in the 19th century and his depictions of mass extinction by the great flood were the frontispiece of the book. Guess shock and horror helped sell stuff then. Not much has changed.
John Martin. The Great Day of His Wrath. 1851.
Martin’s end of the world painting is some serious aesthetic destruction. The painting accordingly depicts ‘the destruction of Babylon and the material world by natural cataclysm’. It came as a response to the new industrial age of London, just as Babylon had grown out of control Martin expected London to grow until it finally burst into a mass of rocks and lava…well there’s still time.
Cleon Peterson. Trump 2017. 2017.
Finally we get to today, and instead of flooding water and fiery hell we’re looking at Cleon Peterson’s Trump 2017, released only a few days ago! Here’s what Peterson had to say about it: “As a way to usher in our new fascist president and celebrate the United States transitioning into totalitarian democracy I am proud to releaseTrump 2017, a print featuring yours truly center stage surrounded by a diagram of political corruption and the end of the world as we know it.”
Well said Peterson, well said.