“The painter, the true painter, will be he who can wring from contemporary life its epic aspect and make us see and understand, with color or in drawing, how great and poetic we are in our cravats and our polished boots.” -- Charles Baudelaire
Island of the Dead, Arnold Boecklin. 1880.
Towards the end of the nineteenth century, classical/mythological themes became popular again, and the Swedish-German artist became especially fond of these themes after he began to work in Italy, influenced by High Renaissance traditions as well as contemporary German artists. His paintings often feature glowy skies, powerful atmospheres, sexually charged contrasts, and a tendency to favor the imagined over reality. Around the time of this painting, he began to focus more on symbolism in his art. The Island of the Dead was one of his favorite subjects; he painted it five different times, each with different intentions. The dark colors give it a melancholy tone, as does the ominous title—it depicts a mausoleum, and the white figure on the water is probably taking the passengers in the boat to it to die. The painting is beautiful for its dream-like quality and later achieved great international acclaim in the twentieth century.