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Isle of the Dead (Toteninsel) by Arnold Bocklin
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  • Isle of the Dead (Toteninsel) by Arnold Bocklin

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  • $232.95
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  • $334.95
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  • 1883
    Oil on panel
    150 x 80 cm (59.1 x 31.5 in)
    Alte Nationalgalerie.

    All versions of Isle of the Dead depict a desolate and rocky islet seen across an expanse of dark water. A small rowboat is just arriving at a water gate and seawall on shore. An oarsman maneuvers the boat from the stern. In the bow, facing the gate, is a standing figure clad entirely in white. Just behind the figure is a white, festooned object commonly interpreted as a coffin. The tiny islet is dominated by a dense grove of tall, dark cypress trees—associated by long-standing tradition with cemeteries and mourning—which is closely hemmed in by precipitous cliffs. Furthering the funerary theme are what appear to be sepulchral portals and windows on the rock faces.

    In 1880 Marie Berna, the American-born widow of a German diplomat, visited Bocklin in Florence, where she saw an unfinished first version of this painting (now Kunstmuseum Basel) on his easel. She commissioned the present canvas as a memorial to her husband, requesting the additions of the draped coffin and the shrouded female figure. Prodded by his dealer, Bocklin painted three other versions by 1886. This romantic image would become one of Germany's most beloved, widely circulated through poor reproductions as well as a related etching of 1890 by Max Klinger

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