A Short History of Skulls in Art

Skull art is not a new idea. In this post you can read a Short History of Skulls in Art.


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Skulls have been used as art and decoration for centuries, but have gained immense popularity only recently. As far back as 7200 B.C., skulls were displayed in homes in the Middle East, yet since that time period predates writing, there is no way of knowing the symbolism behind the displays. As recently as 300 A.D., skulls of defeated warriors were displayed as trophies by Aztecs. About the same time, Mexicans began using skulls as symbols to celebrate the Day of the Dead. By the 1300’s, Europeans were decorating chalices and churches with skulls and bones. It wasn’t until the 1920’s that American artists began experimenting with the use of skulls in art.

ancient skulls 1 ancient skulls

During World War II, many propaganda posters included imagery of skulls. The Allies distributed propaganda posters utilizing skull imagery which portrayed Hitler as death or causing deaths. The Axis posters warned of impending death to Allied fighters employing skulls and bones. The use of skulls in this manner inspired more artists in the years after World War II to incorporate skulls in their art. By the 1970’s skull imagery worked its way into t-shirts, accessories and pop art. This was led in part by successful metal and jam bands.

skull art

Skull pop art has been popularized only in the past decade or so. At nearly any store today one can find items embellished with skulls. From clothing to house wares to bedding and furniture, skull imagery is tremendously popular and in high demand. And skulls in art have come a long way.

A Short History of Skulls in Art 1

The earliest use of skulls in art included human and animal skulls that were adorned with gems, as well as crude drawings and sculptures of skulls. In Mexico, where skulls have been used in art for centuries, vibrant and colorful skull imagery is still used as decoration and art.

skull art and design

Tattooing is another art form where skulls are popular. From a simple skull to skull and crossbones to flaming skulls and skulls intertwined with roses, there are many forms of skull tattoos. Often symbolizing power, triumph or the memory of a loved one, skull tattoos are particularly fashionable in recent years.

skull tattoos

There is no limit to the ways skulls can be and are used in art today. From million dollar jewel-encrusted skulls to department store reproductions, every skull lover can find the one that suits their taste.

A Short History of Skulls in Art

If you love skulls as much as we do, this book is absolutely MUST HAVE!

Skull Style: Skulls in Contemporary Art and Design

SKULL STYLE is a beautifully designed book that presents not only one of the most ancient symbols used in the history of mankind but how it is utilized in the most surprising and modern way today.

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