Art in Video Games: Classic and Modern Art In The Evil Within

Monday 25 March 2019

Among its many other qualities, The Evil Within has a very interesting aesthetic aspect, with a gloomy, nauseous atmosphere dominating in the exterior settings and old-fashioned decoration and design in most of the interior areas. Sebastian himself, the protagonist, seems to be coming from a different era, and what to say about Ruvik, his arch-enemy, who, in his human version, looks like a Victorian remnant.

The world is unsettled in The Evil Within; things are twisted, both metaphorically and literally. In the places that we go with Sebastian, everything is messed up; there is a mix of space and time that is quite creepy and ominous, maybe even creepier than the monsters that roam the countryside and the city. There is one particular dialogue between Sebastian and his partner Joseph in Chapter 6, which pretty much sums this up. As they arrive at what looks like an abandoned market place, Sebastian asks Joseph whether he has any idea about where they are, but Joseph wisely corrects him commenting "more like when!" adding that the architecture in the place looks like it comes straight out of the middle ages. Sebastian then replies that still there is electricity and elevators, and Joseph comments that it's like "jumbled up memories". Which is in fact exactly what the whole scenery is, as everything plays out inside Ruvik's mind.

The city itself does not look particularly friendly at the beginning of the story, but this is only a prelude. As soon as Sebastian steps into the nightmare, the space around him becomes a twisted reflection in a looking glass. But even such a space needs works of art, no matter if we have to do with humble village houses, imposing mansions or modern hotels.

The first painting that Sebastian encounters is in an isolated house, in the first part of the village in Chapter 2. The house is at the end of a path, it has several Haunted patrolling in and about it, and in a back room it also has a big painting depicting a group of people, possibly judges of the very old times, gathered together. It is hard to tell if this painting is a replica of or inspired by a real one, since it looks shabby and smudged.

In the main village location in Chapter 3, where there is also the Sadist's barn, there is a tall house near the exit gate, where Sebastian finds the Crossbow and the Shotgun. In a lower floor room, there is the painting of a woman, hanging above a bloodcurdling message written on the wall. It is the Portrait of Eva Geelvinck by Joachim von Sandrart (1639).

In the house where Dr Jimenez goes hiding, we can spot another portrait, which is that of Geertje Hagen by Adriaen de Lelie (1791).

There is also the painting of a lake with two people in a boat, which can actually be seen in several other places at the village.

In Chapter 4, Sebastian visits the clinic of Valerio Jimenez, where we can see again the portrait of Eva Geelvinck. Interestingly enough, it once more appears in a crooked position.

In the same building, there is also The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Frederick Ruysch by Jan van Neck (1683). Very appropriate in this setting.

Below it, on the left, we can see the portrait of a woman who is playing the piano or a pipe organ. It could be a depiction of Saint Cecilia, seeing how she is very often portrayed carrying out a similar activity in a similar pose and outfit as the lady in the painting.

In Chapter 5, Sebastian is already back at the Beacon Mental Hospital - or, at least, a distorted version of it. At the end of a long corridor, there is a huge portrait of a man, standing against a wall. It is the Portrait of Carel Joseph Fodor by Jan Willem Pieneman (1848).

It could be random, but Sebastian comes across the portrait of this man who is called Joseph just a few rooms before finding his partner and friend, who happens to have the same name.

At the beginning of Chapter 9, Ruvik occupies Sebastian's safe room for a while, transforming it into his own private space. During that time, several paintings appear on the walls of the safe room, all of which belong to his family's collection and can be seen in his mansion.

We will examine these paintings shortly, as we take a tour in the spooky Victoriano mansion.

Sebastian attempts to leave through the mirror at the end of the corridor but instead is transferred to a black and white forest, walking down a path at the end of which stands an impressive sunflower. As Sebastian approaches, a figure appears behind the sunflower, then blends with it and seconds later it becomes clear that the figure is actually Ruvik, who leads Sebastian to a colored version of the same forest, and now the path leads to the Victoriano estate.

The big house is beautiful but extremely unnerving; the fading lights, creepy sounds and murderous residents not creating an exactly welcoming place. But it is impossible to not marvel at the several paintings that decorate its walls.

In the gallery room, we can see the portrait of Banker Adriaan van der Hoop by Jan Adam Kruseman (mid 19th century).

In the same room, there is the portrait of Mr. S.A. Vening Meinesz by Jan Veth (1902).

Next to it, we find the portrait of Hiob de Wildt by Dirck van Santvoort (1640).

Near that portrait, there is the one of Gretel Pietersdr Codde, Wife of Jacob Bass by Adriaen Thomasz Key (1586).

On another wall in the same room, we can see the portrait of Jan Corneliszoon Geelvinck by Cornelis Janssens van Ceulen (1646).

In the dining room, there is an ominous original painting depicting a skull and a sunflower, which seems to be inspired by paintings like Adriaen van Utrecht's Vanitas, Still Life with Bouquet and Skull (1642),only in this case the bouquet has been replaced with a sunflower to match Ruvik's symbol.

In the room just above the locked exit gate there is the huge painting of the Victoriano family.

The style in which they are all dressed illustrates perfectly the mix of eras that is a strong element of the story. Next to the family portrait, there is a painting with an urban theme. It is The Keizersgracht Between Molenpad and Runstraat With the House of Thomas Hope by Hendrik Keun (1765 - 1785).

On the other side of the family portrait, there is a painting with a rural theme, the Farmhouse by Johannes Warnardus Bilders (c. 1826).

On another wall of the same room, we can see The Haarlemmerdijk With a Pig on a Stepladder by Michiel van Musscher (1668) and An Ox Won by the Militia in Parrot Shooting, attributed to Jacob Cornelisz van Oostsanen (1564).

Next to them, there is another original painting, made in classic art style, that is connected to the story. It shows a vase of sunflowers and a pear standing near a safe with strands of barbed wire before them.

On the right side of this painting, there is The Courtyard of the Old Stock Exchange in Amsterdam by Kaspar Karsen (1836) and another copy of The Haarlemmerdijk with a Pig on a Stepladder.

Still in this room, there is an original painting which is missing its top part. Its bottom part depicts a man just about to be beheaded by the guillotine.

Notably there is an actual guillotine at some point in the game, in Chapter 6. Joseph is trapped by a couple of Haunted who drag him over to a guillotine and are about to cut his head when Sebastian shoots them down just in time.

The top part of the painting can be found in the Library, which is next to this room. The painting is on the bookshelves on the upper balcony. It shows men with their heads covered with sacks, watching the execution, which may or may not happen. These men could be either moribunds or executioners, as both sides may have their faces hidden.

Both these paintings are parts of a puzzle, as they accompany dials that are needed to open the door to one of Ruvik's secret labs, in the piano room. There we can see the painting completed once we have both dials.

In the same room, there is a copy of Carel Joseph Fodor's portrait, this time hanging majestically on the wall in plain sight.

Behind the grand piano, where Sebastian envisions a dialogue between Ruvik and Dr Martinez, there is the Portrait of  Harmen Hendrik van de Poll, Burgomaster of Amsterdam by Hendrik Pothoven (1749).

When Sebastian solves the puzzle in this room, the secret corridor opens. It may not be obvious as everything is splashed with blood, but the panel with the dials puzzle as well as the rest of the panels in the corridor leading to the secret lab, are actually copies of several paintings we have already seen in the mansion.

In the small hall just outside the Library, there is an abstract painting which seems to be in total contrast and disharmony with the rest of the works of art and portraits in the mansion.

It could be one big hint about the confusion in which Ruvik always perceived the world around him.

There is a change of style in Ruvik's bedroom as well: the paintings that decorate his room are surreal and somewhat foreboding. One is depicting what looks like the mansion, in front of a red curtain which is hanging from the sky with a huge eye above it - a direct indication that Ruvik is watching everyone. Next to it, there is another painting showing a creepy figure covered with a dark sheet. This is in fact a familiar image - we had seen such figures at the Hospice in the village.

Above Ruvik's bed hangs a most creepy painting depicting long black hair hanging from the sky. As the long black hair is the trademark of Laura, Ruvik's sister, that painting obviously symbolizes her presence, as she is always protecting Ruvik one way or the other. It also looks like it is inspired by The False Mirror By René Magritte.

In Laura's bedroom, we can see a painting of flowers in a vase, which looks like a variation of Flowers in a Glass Vase on a Marble Table by Rachel Ruysch (1704).

The ominous painting with the skull and the sunflower can be found again in the bedroom of Ruvik's parents.

In the same bedroom, there is also a copy of the Farmhouse by Johannes Warnardus Bilders.

In the corridor just outside the bedroom, there is a painting showing a stormy sea with a city in the background. It actually resembles Krimson City, with the obelisk of Beacon in the middle.

At the end of this corridor, we find another copy of Hiob de Wildt's portrait.

The same portait is seen again in the sequence during which young Ruvik leads Sebastian further into his world, forming a path of platelets. The painting is turned the other way around, serving as a guide for Sebastian.

When Sebastian is transported back at the mansion after completing the sunflower field trial, he finds himself in a new room, a small lounge, where there is a copy of The Courtyard of the Old Stock Exchange in Amsterdam.

On another wall, there is the portrait of Margaretha Trip, Wife of Hendrik van de Poll by Jan Maurits Quinkhard (1754).

When Sebastian finds himself back in the collapsing city in Chapter 11, he passes through a building where pieces of art are of a different style. The main scenery being now the modern city rather than the retro countryside, the works of art gain a surreal, futuristic character and instead of old-time portraits and classic-style landscapes, we see ominous allegorical compositions that are directly related to Ruvik and the nightmarish world of his memories.

First Sebastian sees a painting that, on first look, depicts something like a loudspeaker, but it is in fact a minimalistic version of the Keeper's safe.

He then comes across a psychedelic painting picturing the Keeper's hammer surrounded by the slim phrenology nails.

There is also a painting that looks like it is a negative, and depicts a lone figure resembling the Keeper, standing on a path or a bridge in a forest.

The next place of interest concerning the instances of art pieces is the hotel in Chapter 13, where the paintings are again of the modern style.

First we get to see the creepy painting with the house, the curtain and the eye, that we had seen previously in Ruvik's bedroom at the mansion.

Then there is the painting with the black hair that hang from the sky, that we again saw in Ruvik's room.

Also reappears the painting of the figure that is covered with a dark sheet.

A new addition is a painting that depicts a figure in a long black robe holding an open umbrella while standing in front of the sea, with the huge eye watching from the sky.

The painting of the Keeper's hammer is also present.

As is the painting depicting the safe box.

Same goes for the painting that pictures the Keeper in the forest.

There is another painting that shows an eye among two long nails. The way the elements of this composition are posed, reminds of the Heresy, the monster that shows up in Chapter 12. The nails resemble a lot its long, sharps legs.

All these paintings in the hotel can be seen in numerous places in Chapter 13 and their purpose is not decorative at all. Since Ruvik's role is much clearer in that chapter, the environment becomes more specific as Ruvik exploits it to send his messages to his victims and establish his power over them.

It is also worth noting that the two paintings that depict rural scenes with the eye in the sky (the mansion with the red curtain above it and the figure with the umbrella at the seashore) as well as they one with the big eye and the long nails on each side, seem to be foreshadowing Stefano Valentini's appearance in The Evil Wihin 2: the eye in the sky resembles the Aperture with which the twisted photographer was watching Union, the red curtain was one of his favorite props, and the umbrella looks like those that photographers use in the studio, and that Stefano was seen using or having around on quite a few occasions in his scenes.


Κώστας said...

You did a great research. Congratulations for your hard work and your love for art.

hisbrokenbutterfly said...

Thank you!!

Unknown said...

Thank you! You have helped me with two of my Art History assignments!