Arnold Böcklin (1827 - 1901)

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Self-Portrait 1872

Arnold Böcklin was a symbolist Swiss painter. He studied at Düsseldorf where he became a friend of Ludwig Andreas Feuerbach. Originally a landscape painter, his travels through Brussels, Zurich, Geneva and Rome, exposed him to classical and Renaissance art, and the Mediterranean landscape. These new influences brought allegorical and mythological figures into his compositions. In 1866 he resided at Bâle, in 1871 in Munich, in 1885 in Hottingen (Switzerland) and at the end of his life in Fiesole.


The Game of the Naiads

Influenced by Romanticism his painting is symbolist within the Art Nouveau style. His pictures portray mythological, fantastical figures along classical architecture constructions (revealing often an obsession with death) creating a strange, fantasy world.


Landscape in the Countryside 1859

Böcklin is best known for his five versions of The Isle of the Dead, which partly evokes the English Cemetery, in Florence, close to his studio and where his baby daughter Maria had been buried.


The Isle of the Dead

Böcklin exercised an influence on Surrealist painters like Max Ernst and Salvador Dalí, and on Giorgio de Chirico.


The War

Otto Weisert designed an Art Nouveau typeface in 1904 and named it "Arnold Böcklin" in his honor. The design uses tendrils hanging from many of the capital letters and across the top of the minuscule letters v through y.


Flora 1875

The Böcklin typeface was later appropriated by the hippy movement and its influence can also be seen in the work of Seventies illustrators such as Roger Dean. The Stuckist artist Paul Harvey has also used the typeface in his work.


The Plague

Böcklin's paintings, especially The Isle of the Dead, inspired several late-Romantic composers. Rachmaninov and Heinrich Schülz-Beuthen both composed symphonic poems after it, and in 1913 Max Reger composed a set of Four Tone Poems after Böcklin of which the third movement is The Isle of the Dead (The others are The Hermit playing the Violin, At play in the waves and Bacchanal).


Playing in the Waves

Still wondering about a painting in your family collection? Contact could be by Arnold Böcklin.