Krampus–the anthropomorphic goat-man-ghoul hybrid sent to terrorize delinquent children into holiday submission; that baddie from old Alpine folklore turned pop culture icon for the dark and disillusioned–that guy is a Yuletide favorite here at Dirge and truly a beast for the ages.
Hundreds of years ago, I have no doubt that kids were just as wretchedly bratty as they are today and required the threat of Krampus’s demonic birch rod beatings, or being stuffed in a wicker basket and dragged off to hell–and I suspect adults and parents thought it was hilarious then, too.
I daresay one hundred years from now our needs for such menacing admonitions and the humorous good times derived thereof will not have changed.
Though the necessity for Krampus’s particular brand of wintertime tough-lovin’ remains unchanged, his classic horned, cloven-hooved, Gene Simmons-tongued appearance may have altered over the years. A quick Google search returns countless antique, vintage, and old-timey imagery. But, as those clickbait-y, non-articles about our favourite 1980s child-star-turned-meth-addicts tease us–“what does he look like now?”
Below is a diverse collection of contemporary Krampus portraiture from today’s artists with a keen eye aimed toward the dark and twisty, with details both horrific and hysterical. Though these recent interpretations range in tone from colorful and surreal to shadowy and mystical, it’s clear that Krampus, that monstrous creature of Germanic yore, remains a classic muse.
Chris Buzelli‘s fantastical landscapes are populated by all manner of mythological creatures; it only stands to reason that Krampus would make an appearance in these magical realms. Pictured here, we have the kidnapped and tortured children doing Krampus’ work for him in traveling to his fiery lair.
Pick up the pace kids, Krampus is getting hungry!
The nocturnal woodlands of Andy Kehoe‘s paintings provides a suitably creepy background for a blackened and solitary Krampus, leering at us through the mists. If Krampus swats a naughty child in the forest and no one’s around to hear, does Krampus care?
Bizhan Khodabandeh‘s slick, stylized Krampus is a retinal burning treat and calls to mind an otherworldly, towering bit of folk-horror. Krampus from Dimension X, where it will not surprise you to learn that children also behave badly there.
Chet Zar‘s unsettling imagery, reminiscent of decayed and diseased flesh, and which explores the darker recesses of the human consciousness, is the stuff of fevered nightmares. That jolly red hat with the jingle bell at the tip somehow makes this the most horrific Krampus of all.
Luke Ramsey’s complex, freehand line work Krampus calls to mind an infernally unsolvable maze. As your eyes follow these finely detailed, demonic doodles upward, you meet Krampus’ own gaze. You’re not sure but you think he looks bored; there’s a sense of ennui, of malaise here. But the crying children in his backpack tell another story, so you quickly drop your eyes and mind your own damn business.
As with most of his work, Tom Bagshaw‘s Krampus is haunting and classically stunning. It’s also scary as hell. NOPE.
Nicoletta Ceccoli‘s lush, fairytale art is the stuff of dreams. As in–this could, quite literally be something I’ve dreamed about: “So there was Krampus, right? But he was, like, wearing a …coral onesie? And sitting in a tiny chair? It was maybe in my grandmother’s house because I recognize that weird blue wallpaper?” Even the child here looks as though she may realize she is in a dream; there is a sense of struggle, but the urgency has passed and she is just waiting to inevitably wake up.
Josh Agle–or SHAG–is well known for his quirky, retro, wildly colored art. With its mod sensibilities and strange sense of hip cocktail party time hedonism, the dark Yule-lord Krampus seems a peculiar subject for this artist to tackle–which for me, makes it one of my favorites featured here. I’d like this to be a peppy postcard that Krampus sends to concerned parents: “wish you were here”–or perhaps a calling card–“see you next year!”
I’ll confess a fondness for Ryan Heshka‘s surreal, pulp-inspired artwork full of tough broads in high heels, outlandish landscapes, and giant sci-fi monsters. In “Consenual Krampus,” we get a taste of some adult-themed Krampus business–and am I alone in wanting to see more of this sort of thing? Some Krampusrotica, if you will? No? Ok, I’ll be in my bunk.