Apocalypse Now and Then

Mad Max-Fury Road - Jasin Boland, courtesy of Warner Bros.

The fantastically reimagined dystopian world in the new movie Mad Max: Fury Road is a wonderfully cacophonous sensory vision of a post-apocalyptic nightmare. With stunningly choreographed anarchic violence it is an orgiastic relishing of the grim and macabre, with the reapers of death dispensing gory dispatch to anything in their path. Rendered in the grandly lurid sensibility of a comic book it is a visually stunning descent into a hellish, plague-ridden scene of horror.

Of course this is nothing new. Tales of apocalyptic catastrophes exist in the mythic pre-histories of many world cultures. Depictions of the world after the imagined Apocalypse have proliferated in art for millennia. In medieval times these visions served as potent religious visual warnings to wayward congregations but by the 18th Century had often become preposterous Technicolor indulgences.

Here are just a few examples from different eras in art. All are vivid depictions of war, death and disaster.

The Four Horsemen from the Apocalypse-Albrecht Dürer

The Four Horsemen, from The Apocalypse, (1498), Albrecht Dürer © The Metropolitan Museum of Art

The Triumph of Death, (c.1562) Pieter Bruegel the Elder, Museo del Prado

The Raft of the Medusa (1818-19)-Jean Louis Théodore Géricault-(Musée du Louvre)

The Raft of the Medusa, (1818-19), Jean Louis Théodore Géricault, Musée du Louvre

Los_Desastres_de_la_Guerra-No.39-Grande_hazaña, con muertos-Goya-PradoJake & Dinos Chapmans_after Goya_Disasters

Los Desastres de la Guerra-No.39-Grande hazaña, con muertos, Goya, Museo del Prado

Jake & Dinos Chapman’s after Goya Disasters

Apocalypse-Ludwig Ferdinand Schnorr von Carolsfeld

Apocalypse, (1831) Ludwig Ferdinand Schnorr von Carolsfeld

Sodom and Gomorrah-John Martin

Sodom and Gomorrah, (1852), John Martin

The Great Day of His Wrath-John Martin

The Great Day of His Wrath, (1853), John Martin

Death on the Pale Horse-Gustave DoréDeath on the Pale Horse, (1865), Gustave Doré

Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse-Viktor Vasnetsov

Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, (1887), Viktor Vasnetsov

The Menin Road, 1919-Paul Nash

The Menin Road, (1919), Paul Nash

Apocalyptic Riders-Nibil Kanso

Apocalyptic Riders, Nibil Kanso