Arnold Bocklin (16 October
1827 – 16 January 1901) was a Swiss symbolist painter.
Life and art
He was born at Basel. His father, Christian Frederick
Böcklin (b. 1802), was descended from an old family of
Schaffhausen, and engaged in the silk trade. His mother,
Ursula Lippe, was a native of the same city. Arnold
studied at the Düsseldorf academy under Schirmer, and became
a friend of Ludwig Andreas Feuerbach. He is associated with
the Düsseldorf school of painting. Schirmer, who recognized
in him a student of exceptional promise, sent him to Antwerp
and Brussels, where he copied the works of Flemish and Dutch
masters. Böcklin then went to Paris, worked at the Louvre,
and painted several landscapes.
After serving his time in
the army, Böcklin set out for Rome in March 1850. At Rome,
he married Angela Rosa Lorenza Pascucci in 1853. The many
sights of Rome were a fresh stimulus to his mind. These new
influences brought allegorical and mythological figures into
his compositions. In 1856 he returned to Munich, and
remained there for four years. He then exhibited the Great
Park, one of his earliest works, in which he treated ancient
mythology. Of this period are his Nymph and Satyr, Heroic
Landscape (Diana Hunting), both of 1858, and Sappho (1859).
These works, which were much discussed, together with
Lenbach's recommendation, gained him appointment as
professor at the Weimar academy. He held the office for two
years, painting the Venus and Love, a Portrait of Lenbach,
and a Saint Catherine.
He returned to Rome from
1862 to 1866, and there gave his fancy and his taste for
violent colour free play in his Portrait of Mme Böcklin, and
in An Anchorite in the Wilderness (1863), a Roman Tavern,
and Villa on the Seashore (1864). He returned to Basel in
1866 to finish his frescoes in the gallery, and to paint,
besides several portraits, The Magdalene with Christ (1868),
Anacreon's Muse (1869), and A Castle and Warriors (1871).
His Portrait of Myself, with Death playing a violin (1873),
was painted after his return again to Munich, where he
exhibited Battle of the Centaurs, Landscape with Moorish
Horsemen and A Farm (1875). From 1876 to 1885 Böcklin was
working at Florence, and painted a Pietà, Ulysses and
Calypso, Prometheus, and the Sacred Grove.
From 1886 to 1892 he
settled at Zürich. Of this period are the Naiads at Play, A
Sea Idyll, and War. After 1892 Böcklin resided at San
Domenico, near Florence.
Influenced by Romanticism his painting is symbolist with
mythological subjects often overlapping with the
Pre-Raphaelites. His pictures portray mythological,
fantastical figures along classical architecture
constructions (often revealing an obsession with death)
creating a strange, fantasy world.
Böcklin is best known for
his five versions (painted in 1880-1886) of Isle of the
Dead, which partly evokes the English Cemetery, Florence,
close to his studio and where his baby daughter Maria had
been buried. An early version of the painting was
commissioned by a Madame Berna, a widow who wanted a
painting with a dream-like atmosphere.
Clement Greenberg wrote in
1947 that Böcklin's work "is one of the most consummate
expressions of all that was now disliked about the latter
half of the nineteenth century."
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