Böcklin, Arnold

Böcklin, Arnold
born Oct. 16, 1827, Basel, Switz.
died Jan. 16, 1901, Fiesole, Italy

Swiss-born Italian painter.

After studies and work in northern Europe and Paris, he won the patronage of the king of Bavaria with his mural Pan in the Bulrushes (1856–58). From 1858 to 1861 he taught at the Weimar Art School and executed mythological frescoes for the Public Art Collection in his native Basel. He settled in Italy, painting nymphs, satyrs, tritons, moody landscapes, and sinister allegories that presaged Symbolism and Surrealism. His later style was sombre, mystical, and morbid, as in his five versions of The Isle of the Dead (1880–86). Though most of his time was spent in Italy, he was the most influential artist in the German-speaking world in the late 19th century.

"Self-Portrait with Death as a Fiddler," oil on canvas by Arnold Böcklin, 1872; in ...

By courtesy of the Staatliche Museen Preussischer Kulturbesitz, Nationalgalerie, Berlin; photograph, Walter Steinkopf

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▪ Swiss painter
born Oct. 16, 1827, Basel, Switz.
died Jan. 16, 1901, Fiesole, Italy

      painter whose moody landscapes and sinister allegories greatly influenced late 19th-century German artists and presaged the symbolism of the 20th-century Metaphysical and Surrealistic artists.

      Although he studied and worked throughout much of northern Europe—Düsseldorf, Antwerp, Brussels, and Paris—Böcklin found his real inspiration in the landscape of Italy, where he returned from time to time and where the last years of his life were spent.

      Böcklin first won a reputation with the large mural “Pan in the Bulrushes” (c. 1857), which brought him the patronage of the king of Bavaria. From 1858 to 1861, he taught at the Weimar Art School, but his nostalgia for the Italian landscape pursued him. After an interval during which he completed his mythological frescoes for the decoration of the Public Art Collection (Öffentliche Kunstsammlung), Basel, he settled in Italy and only occasionally returned to Germany, and then to experiment with flying machines. During his last two decades, Böcklin's work became increasingly subjective, often showing fabulous creatures or being based on dark allegorical themes, as in “Island of the Dead” (1880), which provided the inspiration for the symphonic poem The Isle of the Dead by the Russian composer Sergey Rachmaninoff. Such spectral scenes as his “Odysseus and Calypso” (1883) and “The Pest” (1898) reveal the morbid symbolism that anticipated the so-called Freudian imagery of much 20th-century art.

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Universalium. 2010.

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