Looking at the art of Arnold Böcklin, we can see its roots on Romanticism taking symbolist shapes. Speaking of shapes, his artworks are very ‘geometrical’ too. My particular opinion about his art is that it has much greatness, but sometimes… it lacks it. I am quite fond of some of his works while opposite to others.
Here you can see some of the works I enjoy. Arnold makes use of more polished anatomical aesthetics in these pieces as well as more attention to detail. Overall, the lighting, color and atmosphere of his works are have that ‘unnatural’ look, similar to a collage, which was right for what he wanted to accomplish. The technique of most of his works aren’t much attractive for me, as I prefer a more realistic approach to any subject in general, but his motifs… Ah… The motifs…
This self-portrait (1872) is perhaps his best piece (in my opinion). What is he saying to us, the viewers? For me, the most intriguing detail on this particular piece is not the death playing the violin behind the artist, but his gaze. What is he looking at? What is he thinking? That gaze has strength. I’m very fond of the palette and lighting here.
And, I think his second best work may be The Lamentations of Mary Magdalene. The composition is astonishing. The comfort of the horizontal lines (dead Christ and the environment) contrasting with the tension of the diagonal (Mary and her veil). The contrast of the environment and skin tones with the black of the veil. I see the veil as death and mourn.
The Isle of Death, one of his most iconic works. There are other versions of the same painting, perhaps 5 in total. Hence the beautiful contrasting colors and how the isle is a big geometrical block. A faint sunlight tints the cold atmosphere.
The Plage: a flatter piece with a strange lighting and proportions, with lots of negative spaces – used to emphasize Death and the chimera.
The War: Another flat piece, where we distinguish the elements through their shapes and contrasts. War pretty much brings Death, Fear and Destruction, the characters in the painting.