Reading List: Halloween and the Supernatural

Stack of eight books with spines showing against a gray background

With the arrival of autumn, the Frick Art Reference Library has conjured up a recommended reading list inspired by Halloween. The selected titles below offer a scholarly perspective on the traditional imagery often associated with the holiday, from Frankenstein and witches to esoteric practices and the horror genre.

The publications on this list are available for consultation by appointment in our reading room at Frick Madison.

  1. Gothic: Four Hundred Years of Excess, Horror, Evil and Ruin

    By Richard Davenport-Hines (1999)

    Travel through the dark history of the gothic sensibility with this survey covering art, literature, film, music, and more. Davenport-Hines traces the goth aesthetic through time, beginning with Salvator Rosa’s depiction of the seventeenth-century eruption of Mount Vesuvius all the way to the twentieth-century films of director David Lynch and the music of The Cure. (This title is also available as an e-book, accessible through our Open Library partnership by creating a free Internet Archive account.)

Cover of "Gothic: Four Hundred Years of Excess, Horror, Evil and Ruin," featuring bold black type on a black cover
  1. It’s Alive!: A Visual History of Frankenstein

    By Elizabeth Campbell Denlinger (2018)

    Reanimate your interest in classic horror with this catalog published for the 2018 exhibition held at The Morgan Library & Museum in New York. Celebrating the two-hundredth anniversary of the publication of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, the catalog illustrates the development of Frankenstein’s monster in the public imagination. The monster, originally written to be erudite and philosophical, adapted over time in genres from comic books to stage plays into our current image of the silent brute, popularized most famously on screen by Boris Karloff (1887–1969).

Cover of "It's Alive!: A Visual History of Frankenstein," with a lightning bolt against a black background
  1. The Tarot of Leonora Carrington

    By Susan Aberth and Tere Arcq (2020)

    Dive deeper into the esoteric with a dazzling rendition of the Major Arcana—twenty-two special cards in the tarot deck—by British-born Surrealist painter Leonora Carrington (1917–2011). Accompanying essays explore the artist’s use of symbols in her tarot and the impact of the imagery’s repetition throughout her body of work.

Cover of "The Tarot of Leonora Carrington," featuring a tarot card designed by the artist against a blue background
  1. Baroque Horrors: Roots of the Fantastic in the Age of Curiosities

    By David R. Castillo (2010)

    Uncover the roots of modern horror fantasy, the appeal of reality television, and even the dynamics of spectator sports in this wide-ranging book on early modern horror and its manifestations in current culture. The author traces these contemporary forms of media back to the Spanish Baroque period and its explorations of the grotesque, the fantastical, and the theatrical.

Cover of "Baroque Horrors" featuring details of etchings of skeletons
  1. Bruegel’s Witches: Witchcraft Images in the Low Countries between 1450 and 1700

    By Renilde Vervoort (2015)

    View depictions of witches and witchcraft with this catalog published in conjunction with the 2015 exhibition of the same name. The catalog argues that contemporary images of witchcraft in popular culture have their origins in the work of artist Pieter Bruegel the Elder (ca. 1525–1569). The witch hunts associated with Bruegel’s native Flanders in the fifteenth through seventeenth centuries are given proper historical context, offering both fascinating and chilling insight into this slice of Dutch and Flemish cultural history.

Cover of "Bruegel's Witches" featuring a detail from a painting of witches, bats, and other supernatural creatures around a cauldron
  1. Le Tarot de Salvador Dalí

    By Rachel Pollack (1985)

    Tap into the mystic symbolism depicted in the tarot deck of Salvador Dalí (1904–1989). This book, written in French, features full-page reproductions of the Major and Minor Arcana, all designed by the Surrealist artist. Detailed explanations of Dalí’s unique flourishes on each card accompany the images.

Cover of "Le Tarot de Salvador Dalí" featuring a tarot card designed by Dalí with the artist as The Magician
  1. The Exquisite Corpse: Chance and Collaboration in Surrealism’s Parlor Game

    Edited by Kanta Kochhar-Lindgren, Davis Schneiderman, and Tom Denlinger (2009)

    Discover the Surrealist origins and contemporary interpretations of the classic parlor game known as the Exquisite Corpse (cadavre exquis). The game involves each player adding part of an image or text without seeing previous contributions in full, resulting in an amalgamated final composition. This collection of essays explores the game’s history as an artistic and literary tool for collaborative, and often monstrous, creation.

Cover of "The Exquisite Corpse" featuring a sketchy disjointed figure
  1. Ancient Magic and the Supernatural in the Modern Visual and Performing Arts

    Edited by Filippo Carlà and Irene Berti (2015)

    Study the ways in which early Western Christian interpretations of magic and the occult continue to influence contemporary media. Contributors to this collection of essays utilize interdisciplinary studies to link visual and performing arts across social and cultural identities.

Cover of "Ancient Magic and the Supernatural in the Modern Visual and Performing Arts," featuring a detail from a painting of a distressed woman pouring liquid into a bowl of fire

All photos by Joseph Coscia Jr., The Frick Collection

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