Arnold Bocklin (1827-1901)

The Swiss painter Arnold Bocklin is included on these pages because he was a significant painter of symbolist and mythological subjects, and his work became quite well-known in Britain, through prints and articles in art magazines of the period.

Bocklin (properly spelt with an umlaut on the 'o') was born in Basel, but studied art in Dusseldorf under Schirmer. He travelled to Rome in 1850, returning to his home town of Basel in 1855 as a portraitist and landscape painter. During 1856-7 he lived in Munich, where he found a patron in Count von Schaek. He was appointed Professor of Landscape at the Weimar School of Arts in 1860, a position he held for two years before travelling again to Rome, and then back to Basel in 1866. In 1876 he finally settled in Munich.

Bocklin's mature works - the symbolist and mythological paintings - are notable far more for originality and bold conception than power of draughtsmanship. Some tend to a heavy eroticism, and some are disturbing and rather lurid. He enjoyed some interest in Britain from the 1880s onwards, and occasional pictures by turn of the century British artists and illustrators seem to contain reference to his works. I do not know of any of his pictures in British public collections, but samples of his work occasionally surface in exhibitions trying to link Victorian symbolists with those on the Continent. In Switzerland, I believe that there are examples of his work in the Basel museum.

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