When faced with posterity’s lottery, artists might hope they have one work at least which finds favour with future generations. In the case of Swiss painter Arnold Böcklin (18271901) this would be Die Toteninsel (The Isle of the Dead), not a single picture but a series of paintings produced from 1880 to 1886 all of which depict a similar scene. The enduring popularity of the pictures wouldn’t have surprised Böcklin, he painted the four additional versions after the original proved surprisingly popular.
What’s fascinating about the paintings is the spell they’ve cast over subsequent generations of artists, musicians, writers and filmmakers. The quality of mystery which Böcklin evoked is a specific attraction for those drawn to the eerie and the fantastic. In this post we’ll look at a few of the more notable derivations.