Tuesday 24 June 2014

Inspiring Image: Elevating History to Mythology

“Bocklin’s Tomb” (1901) by Ferdinand Keller (1842-1922)

Ferdinand Keller was a German painter classically trained in landscape and portraiture with an interest in historical subject matter.  In his later years, he was heavily influenced by the Swiss Symbolist painter Arnold Bocklin. Keller was drawn to Bocklin’s love of the Romantic era and his portrayal of fantastical worlds.  After seeing the work of Bocklin, Keller made the shift from historical themes to those of mythology and magic.

Upon Bocklin’s death in 1901, Keller honored his memory with the beautiful painting “Bocklin’s Tomb”.  Here he references Bocklin’s own painting “The Isle of the Dead”, and creates his vision of how Bocklin might wish to be visually eulogized.  The painting wonderfully combines a sense of the real with a feeling of fantasy, and somehow we know this place only exists on canvas even though it looks real.  In doing so, Keller has fittingly elevated Bocklin from art history to mythology.

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