Dawn of Eternity, Gothic

On Gothic Imagery

Quite readily I would say I am a visual person; if something captures my attention I will probably want to look at it in depth. The same is certainly true for things which fall into the Gothic category, and old or new, so long as the style is true, I will enjoy it.

This isn’t going to be an analysis of Gothic imagery, simply because I have other books I want to right first! Instead, I will simply discuss what I like and why.

Fair warning, this may be a long post…

Without death, there is no life

Gothic fiction is something we can trace back to the Victorian era (EDIT: 18th Century) England – though Gothic as a term was around long before this.

I do however want to focus on the later Victorian Era, a point in time where people we relatively interested with death and the like.

Though I think, what is key to remember here, is that this isn’t so simple as an obsession with just death:

The effect of Gothic fiction feeds on a pleasing sort of terror, an extension of Romantic literary pleasures… – Wikipedia

So although we do have underworldy themes, it is a far more complex palette that takes on the colours of romance, terror, the supernatural, mystery, and applies its own tone to them.


In this image from Carmilla (Fanu), we see much more than death as a theme. There is a romance, almost parasitic in nature, and one that illustrates the fight between the light and dark.


I like the simple yet visually informative artwork here…it manages to be moody in tone but energetic in the displayed scene, Carmilla frozen in act of both sexual attraction and Vampiric urge.

Yes, I reference Carmilla a lot because I have a great passion for the book, and this is also something I feel comes into the Gothic theme.

In the song ‘Lovesick for Mina‘ by Cradle of Filth, we have the following lyrics:


One might see in Mina
My disease
But it is She who has infected me
For all eternity…


A very powerful statement that echoes great meaning, and I think, one that represents the passion common in Gothic fiction; the lust for something otherworldly, or beyond us.

In The Picture of Dorian Gray, Dorian seeks to retain the pleasures of life, at great cost.

In both Carmilla and Dorian Gray, we have themes and motives of a forbidden nature; homoerotic romance which undoubtedly pushed on the limits of society, again bringing us back to the idea of seeking something beyond or taboo.

And from the same period, a scene from an Opium den; an escape from life?

Again, we have the same style of work, managing to capture a scene full of interpretation. I wouldn’t say it is necessary ‘Gothic’, but it reflects the period nonetheless.

What we perceive

An interesting point to note is that, given the time, all of this imagery is obviously in black and white.

If we think of things associated with Gothic fiction, Vampires, ghosts, spirits, ghouls and so on, I am pretty sure we do not imagine them in daylight.

So, we have this natural and intrinsic style which must carry through in at least some way, for it to feel authentically gothic (at least to me).


Bohemian Gothic Tarot
From my own Tarot deck (Bohemian Gothic), we see traditional imagery brought to life in the modern age, still retaining its Gothic style.


There is a great deal to see in these pictures, if we really study them (and why I like being visual!).

Although death is indeed represented, literally and in tone, we do still have light; the lady in ‘The Wheel of Fortune’ is having light shone upon her possible future (again, reaching beyond).

In ‘The Hermit’, we can also clearly see similar themes, but also exploration. The concept of going into the darkness is very much at home in Gothic fiction, and is both literal and figuratively speaking (going within oneself).

How many times do readers find the narrator entering somewhere dark and unnatural? The exploration of these themes, and the terrors that can accompany them, are part of the style.

Amor e Morte


Artwork for album Cryptoriana – The Seductiveness Of Decay, Cradle of Filth


Commented the infamous Dani Filth: “The album is deeply infused with Victorian gothic horror and thus the title is a reflection of that. ‘Cryptoriana’ implies the Victorian’s infatuation with the supernatural, the grave and the ghoulish. And the subtitle ‘The Seductiveness Of Decay’ further cements this attraction to death and the glittering lengthy process of self-annihilation.”


I think the above artwork is some the best around; I purchased the limited edition version of this album on vinyl, and the artwork inside was absolutely beautiful.

How is it that, something associated with death and the macabre, can be found beautiful?

This is ultimately the purpose of Gothic fiction: it simply cannot be what it is without love, romance or obsession. It requires these aspects to bring it to life, as if a corpse without crimson blood, an unfinished Frankenstein of sorts.

Maybe it is because, as with all things we love and adore, death feels more personal; it is more poignant to think about the loss of something we value.

Instead, he felt what it must mean to truly be alive now that death seemed so personal. – Dawn of Eternity: Arising

Perhaps like the Victorians, we are still open to this in others, the majesty of a life fallen low through experimentation or debauchery, devilment or innocence…

6 thoughts on “On Gothic Imagery”

  1. I really enjoyed this. But the Gothic can be traced back further than the Victorians- Horace Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto is considered by many to be the first Gothic text (1764). I’d also check out Prof. Clive Bloom’s Gothic Histories. A good historical summary of Gothicism. I’ve also got some really cool fin de siécle Gothic shorts saved on my laptop if you want me to email you them for you to examine. Some absolutely brilliant stuff that was completely lost in time.


    1. Thank you!

      But yes I am not surprised in that regard (probably should have researched more), and I didn’t realise that Otranto was that old! One I actually haven’t read though.

      And yes, send them if you like 🙂 I think it’s a great topic to learn about.



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