10/28/2014 09:14 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

23 Creepy Clowns From Art History Guaranteed To Spark Halloween Nightmares

Whether you've recently become obsessed with American Horror Story: Freak Show, you live in Wasco, California, or you are still harnessing suspicions about that circus you were forced to endure as a child, there's a good chance you get goosebumps all over from the mere thought of a clown. The painted smiles, the oversized baby ensembles, the eagerness to please -- there is something infinitely unsettling about the painted creatures who are enlisted to amuse children while doing the exact opposite.

spooky clown

It's difficult to pinpoint exactly why so many people fear these jolly sources of entertainment. Perhaps it's the knowledge that beneath the caked white face makeup and rainbow tufts of hair is a stranger, playing pretend for some unknown motive. In the words of SUNY professor Andrew McConnell Stott, who's long written on the topic of clowns, "It becomes impossible to disassociate the character from the actor."

Whatever the reason, we're not afraid to admit that we're painfully afraid of clowns. And on this most spooky of seasons we've decided to compile the eeriest, strangest and most disturbing gaggle of clowns in art past and present. From Renoir in the 19th century to Cindy Sherman in 2011, the following artists all hold a special place in their hearts nightmares for this particular breed of prankster. Behold, 23 artistic clowns guaranteed to keep your stomach turning until Halloween night.

Clowns in Art

Did we leave out your favorite? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.



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