ADVERTISING
 
Wednesday, August 15   Sign in or Register
 
Evangelical Focus
 

 
 
 
FOLLOW US ON
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Google +
  • Instagram
  • Soundcloud
 

Newsletter
Newsletter, sign up to receive all our News by email.
 
 

POLL
New season
What kind of contents do you enjoy most?






SEE MORE POLLS
 

 
TOP 10 MOST VIEWED



René Breuel
 

Longing for death

What is my picture of death? What awaits me? Will beauty engulf me, or will I dance on its bosom? Will I finish by myself, or will eternity ravish me with overflowing life.

CULTURE MAKING AUTHOR René Breuel 29 APRIL 2017 19:00 h GMT+1
Arnold Böcklin, Die Toteninsel III (Alte Nationalgalerie, Berlin). The Isle of the Death. / Wikimedia (CC)

Adolf Hitler spent a fortune in 1936 to buy a painting and hang it in his office. A secluded isle, surrounded by the boundless mysterious sea, is approached by a rowboat, and a figure clad entirely in white faces the water gate. In the rocky walls of the island are carved sepulchral portals, and dark cypress trees dominate the enigmatic center of the picture. Hitler had this painting in his office until the last moment, until he shot himself in his bunker in Berlin.



It wasn’t only Hitler who was fascinated with Arnold Böcklin’s Isle of the Dead. Freud had a copy in his office, and Lenin had one hanging just above his bed.



The painting inspired works by Munch, Max Ernst and Salvador Dalí, a symphony by Rachmaninoff, and Nabokov noted that the painting was to be “found in every Berlin home” in the early 20th century.[1] Böcklin himself described the Isle of the Dead as “a dream picture: it must produce such a stillness that one would be awed by a knock on the door.”[2]



What makes this painting so magnetic? Part of it is its surreal beauty: a funerary island floating on nothingness, with its massive walls unrivalled by the waveless calm of the ocean, the trees and the clouds bending to the whisper of the wind, the last rays of light that illuminate the island growing dimmer and dimmer, as the sun falls into its abyss. Part of the drawing power of this painting emerges from the questions it raises too. Who is that white figure? What is the oarsman feeling? What lies behind the cypress trees? A passage to the underworld, perhaps?



But maybe what attracts us most strongly to Böcklin’s Isle of the Dead is the allure of death drawing close. We can feel a frenzied calm taking over our hearts as “life as we know it” finishes and we are buried into some kind of mysterious destiny. We hear the silence of the moment, the serene embrace of the wind smoothing our skin, the attraction and the fear that dominate us as we approach the center of the island. Our existence approaches its twilight, and we try to take in a last flash of beauty before our eyes close.



Curiously, after five editions of Isle of the Dead, Böcklin painted also an Isle of Life. It is filled with signs of joy and vividness: music, company, dance, intimacy, color, animals, the blue sky, friendship. Instead of the tense magnetism of Isle of the Dead, this painting produces relief. One picture gets us bracing for death, the other relaxes our muscles. In one picture we are the tragic hero; in the other, part of a joyous feast in nature.



These paintings get me thinking. What is my picture of death? What awaits me?



Will beauty engulf me, or will I dance on its bosom? Will I finish by myself, or will eternity ravish me with overflowing life.



 



[1] Vladimir Nabokov, Despair (1936), 56.



[2] John Culshaw, Rachmaninov: The Man and his Music (1949), 7.


 

 


0
COMMENTS

    If you want to comment, or

 



 
 
YOUR ARE AT: - - - Longing for death
 
ADVERTISING
 
 
 
AUDIOS Audios
 
Nominal Christianity, a mission field for the church Nominal Christianity, a mission field for the church

An interview with Lars Dahle, of the Steering Committee of the Lausanne Movement Global Consultation on Nominal Christianity held in Rome.

 
Ruth Valerio: A lifestyle that cares about creation Ruth Valerio: A lifestyle that cares about creation

Are Christians called to make a difference in environmental care? What has creation care to do with "loving our neighbours"? An interview with the Global Advocacy and Influencing Director of Tearfund.

 
Kathy Bryan: Online sex trafficking in the USA Kathy Bryan: Online sex trafficking in the USA

“Prostitution is nobody’s dream,  it’s a very traumatic lifestyle”, says Kathy Bryan, director of the Elevate Academy. She mentors former victims.

 
Christians in politics? Christians in politics?

What is the role of Christians serving in politics? An interview with Auke Minnema, the new General Director of the European Christian Political Movement (ECPM).

 
Michael Ramsden: Communicating the Gospel in today’s societies Michael Ramsden: Communicating the Gospel in today’s societies

RZIM International Director Michael Ramsden responds to questions about the secularisation of Europe, the role of Christians in public leadership and the new ‘culture of victimism’.

 
Michael Schluter: Relationships are the key to build Europe Michael Schluter: Relationships are the key to build Europe

The economist summarises the manifesto “Confederal Europe: Strong Nations, Strong Union” and explains why personal relationships should be at the centre of our economy, education and democracy. 

 
Efraim Tendero: Relationship with Roman Catholicism and other current issues Efraim Tendero: Relationship with Roman Catholicism and other current issues

The World Evangelical Alliance Secretary General participated in the Italian Evangelical Alliance assembly (Rome, 8-9 April). In this interview with Evangelical Focus, Bp Tendero talks about the need to listen to local churches and to face challenges like the refugee crisis and climate change. 

 
Greg Pritchard: European Leadership Forum Greg Pritchard: European Leadership Forum

Pritchard explains the vision of ELF, comments on the 2015 event in Poland and reflects on what it means to have an "evangelical identity".

 
PICTURES Pictures
 
Sharing Jesus with World Cup fans in Moscow Sharing Jesus with World Cup fans in Moscow

A team of Steiger mission is starting conversations about the gospel in the middst of the football celebration in Russia.

 
Analysing current issues in the light of the Bible Analysing current issues in the light of the Bible

At the 2018 Apologetics Forum in Comarruga (Spain), Michael Ramsden, Pablo Martinez, Ruth Valerio and José de Segovia analysed how society and the Bible approach the issues of personal identity, integrity, sexuality, pop culture, and environmental care.

 
European “Bridges to Inclusion” gathering 2018, in Riga European “Bridges to Inclusion” gathering 2018, in Riga

The network of Christian ministries working for the inclusion of people with disabilities, celebrated its tenth continental meeting in Latvia with the participation of 12 countries.

 

 
Coexistence in the church - a model for society Coexistence in the church - a model for society

“Gospel, identity and coexistence” were the themes of the General Assembly of the Spanish Evangelical Alliance. Two days in Palma de Mallorca to reflect about the role of evangelical churches in society.

 
'Ungi kulimi changana' 'Ungi kulimi changana'

Educator and journalist Jordi Torrents shares images of the Sekeleka social centre in Mozambique. About 50 children live there, many with some kind of disability. All photos were taken with permission.

 
The President in an evangelical church on Christmas Eve The President in an evangelical church on Christmas Eve

For the first time, the President of Portugal attended a worship service in an evangelical church. It was in Sintra, on Christmas Eve.

 
VIDEO Video
 
Being a peacemaker Being a peacemaker

Ken Sande, Founder and President of Relational Wisdom 360, develops a practical systematic theology for pursuing peace and resolving the conflicts of real life. 

 
“No one should have to leave their values at the door” “No one should have to leave their values at the door”

Author Krish Kandiah talks with politician Tim Farron about the Christian faith, politics and secularism.

 
What are the essential characteristics of a godly leader? What are the essential characteristics of a godly leader?

Clinical Pastoral Counsellor Emoke Tapolyai reflect on three characteristics Christians who have been given leadership roles should develop.

 
Reaching non-Christian ‘Christians’ Reaching non-Christian ‘Christians’

How can we reach those who call themselves ‘Christians’ but have not experienced a conversion to Christ? Forty missiologists and mission practitioners came together for a Lausanne Movement global consultation in Rome.

 
Trailer: “The Peace Between” Trailer: “The Peace Between”

A film about the experience of refugees in Europe. Churches, small groups and individuals are encouraged to use it during Refugee Week: 17-24 June.

 
Heart Heart

A short animation film by Swiss cartoonist Alain Auderset tells the message of the Bible in four minutes.

 
Philip Yancey interview Philip Yancey interview

An 8-minute interview with Philip Yancey on the role of Christians in a secularised society. Recorded in Madrid, September 2016.

 
An interview with Prof. John Lennox An interview with Prof. John Lennox

New atheism, the definition of "faith", Christianity in Europe, the role of the Bible in mission, and the need to listen more. An exclusive interview recorded at "Forum Apologética" (Tarragona, Spain) in May 2016.

 
 
Follow us on Soundcloud
Follow us on YouTube
 
 
WE RECOMMEND
 
PARTNERS
 

 
AEE
EVANGELICAL FOCUS belongs to Areópago Protestante, linked to the Spanish Evangelical Alliance (AEE). AEE is member of the European
Evangelical Alliance and World Evangelical Alliance.
 

Opinions expressed are those of their respective contributors and do not necessarily represent the views of Evangelical Focus.