We Can't Stop Staring at Kurt Cobain's Original Painting, "Incesticide"

We Can't Stop Staring at Kurt Cobain's Original Painting, "Incesticide"

A much more serious piece of contemporary art than the "Incesticide" album cover lets on.

A much more serious piece of contemporary art than the "Incesticide" album cover lets on.

Text: Justin Ragolia

Dwarfed by the enormous success and influence garnered by the frontman of Nirvana and the tragedy and controversy surrounding the tortured artist's suicide, Kurt Cobain's endeavors in the visual arts are often overlooked. While it's clear that he had no issue imparting his perspective as a lyricist and musician, his visual artwork has remained relatively under the radar. That is, until United Talent Agency, who've interestingly enough represented Cobain's widow Courtney Love for years, contributed several of the artist's paintings, comics, and drawings, to the Seattle Art Fair this month.

The one that's been most on our minds since the paintings were revealed is Incesticide. While it's not exactly fair to describe the painting as "never-before-seen" because a  square-cropped scan of the work was used as the album cover for Nirvana's '92 compilation album released under the same name, seeing the work in its entirety gives the feeling of a much more legitimate piece of contemporary art.

The painting features a minimalistic, yet heavily stylized figure of a skeleton with a head shape that's reminiscent of the alien-like figure in The Scream, the most famous work by Norwegian post-impressionist Edvard Munch, who also struggled with anxiety and addiction. The skeleton rests against a faded sage background, and is tugged leftward by an infantesque marionette figure, painted in a much more lifelike and three-dimensional style than the skeleton.

What's most drawn us to the work though, is the two bright poppy flowers that rest in the skeletal shape's right hand, a seemingly obvious allusion to Cobain's struggle with heroin addiction, and the way the marionette can be interpreted as either tugging the skeleton directly towards or backward and away from the flowers.

In some way, then, the piece deserves to be regarded as more of an abstract self-portrait of a brilliant artist in crisis than merely a scrawling, gritty 5x5 album artwork sketch.

Check out the painting, followed by the rest of his artwork displayed at the Seattle Art Fair below:

INCESTICIDE. IMAGE COURTESY OF THE ESTATE OF KURT COBAIN

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