Arnold Böcklin (October 16, 1827 – January 16, 1901)

Oil on wood, 29 x 48 in. (73.7 x 121.9 cm)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Arnold Böcklin painted five versions of Island of the Dead between 1880 and 1886. The image became one of the most beloved motifs in late nineteenth-century Germany, widely known through poor color reproductions and a freely adapted etching of the 1890s.

The Metropolitan Museum owns the second version of Island of the Dead, which was commissioned by Marie Berna when she visited Böcklin in his Florence studio in April 1880. She was struck by the first version (Kunstmuseum Basel), which sat half completed on the easel, so Böcklin painted this smaller version on wood for her. At her request, he added the coffin and female figure, an allusion to her husband's death years earlier.  The white-clad figure is often taken to be Charon, and the water analogous to the Acheron.
His dealer, Fritz Gurlitt, prodded Böcklin to paint three more versions, all with a lighter sky. One is in Berlin (1883, Alte Nationalgalerie), one is in Leipzig (1886, Museum der Bildenden Künste), and the third (1884) was destroyed in World War II (?).

The Island of the Dead inspired musical compositions by Sergei Rachmaninoff, Max Reger, Huber.
Böcklin's work was a good inspiration for many other artist such as Salvador Dalí, de Chirico, Max Ernst.
"Island of the Dead," is considered among the most prized works in the history of art.


Arnold Böcklin 
Source between two rock walls, 1881
Oil on canvas (85 x 62 cm) 
Private collection 

Arnold Böcklin
The sacred wood, 1882
Varnished tempera on wood, Kunstmuseum Basel.