A major artist of the late 19th century, the Swiss painter Arnnold Böcklin (1827-1901) remains little-known in France, where his art was often reduced to the fascinating icon of only one of his many masterpieces, The Isle of the Dead.
Rediscovered in the 1910s by surrealist painters – Giorgio de Chirico and Marx Ernst in particular – who found a powerful inspiration in his fantastic and iconoclastic vision of mythology, Böcklin's work has never been presented in France. This first monographic exhibition, gathering some 70 pieces, allows the French public to understand the importance of the painter and his place in modern art.
Although it was long considered as "Germanic", if Böcklin's painting draws its inspiration in the artistic, literary and esthetical German traditions, it also breaks away from it. His first landscapes, impregnated with romanticism, took stock of the lessons of Johann Wilhem Schirmer and Carl Friedrich Lessing with Castle in Ruin at Twilight, 1847 (Berlin, Nationalgalerie). His art also reflects a Nordic interpretation of the Latin character shared with the Deutsch-Römer, the German artists who settled in Rome in the middle of the century. As he travelled widely, he was also influenced by other trends in European painting: Rubens, for instance, whose memory haunts the depictions of fighting centaurs and the large fight scenes of the later years; Poussin and Le Lorrain, whose ideal landscapes are echoed in the series of Villas on the Seaside.