A Survey of Terrible Parents in Art History

We know that some kids just aren’t alright, but this time, we’re focusing on their folks. From ghastly, painterly scenes of classic filicide to controversial contemporary photographers who use their children as muses, here are a few examples of questionable, problematic and plain terrible parenting through the ages. Are we being too harsh? Did we miss someone? Feel free to tsk-tsk in the comment section.

Ilya Repin, Ivan the Terrible And His Son Ivan, 16 November 1581, 1885. Courtesy of Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow

Russia’s Czar Ivan IV Vasilyevich or Ivan the Terrible was very apt at the whole ruling and conquering thing, devout, intelligent, but he was also prone to episodic bouts of mental illness and violent rage. This classic painting shows a mad-eyed Ivan cradling his son and heir after he beat him to death with a pointed staff on the head. His son had confronted him about an earlier outburst over his daughter-in-law’s immodest clothing, whom Ivan beat and caused to miscarry. Hence, “The Terrible.”