Island of the Dead

Artist: Arnold Böcklin (Swiss, Basel 1827–1901 San Domenico, Italy)

Date: 1880

Medium: Oil on wood

Dimensions: 29 x 48 in. (73.7 x 121.9 cm)

Classification: Paintings

Credit Line: Reisinger Fund, 1926

Accession Number: 26.90


In 1880 Marie Berna, the American-born widow of a German diplomat, visited Böcklin in Florence, where she saw an unfinished first version of this painting (now Kunstmuseum Basel) on his easel. She commissioned the present canvas as a memorial to her husband, requesting the additions of the draped coffin and the shrouded female figure. Prodded by his dealer, Böcklin painted three other versions by 1886. This romantic image would become one of Germany's most beloved, widely circulated through poor reproductions as well as a related etching of 1890 by Max Klinger (1857–1901).