ADVERTISING
 
Sunday, June 16   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
30 years of internet...
Will digital natives and the "Gen Z" use new technologies with a better ethical/values reflection than the previous generation?



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
 
Julia Doxat-Purser: 25 years of EEA office in Brussels Julia Doxat-Purser: 25 years of EEA office in Brussels

An interview with the socio-political representative of the European Evangelical Alliance about how evangelical Christians work at the heart of the European Union.

 
Lars Dahle: Nominal Christianity, a mission field for the church Lars Dahle: 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.

 
Testimony: Wildfires near Athens Testimony: Wildfires near Athens

Nico Spies, a Christian worker in Athens, gives details about the wildfires in Greece.

 
PICTURES Pictures
 
Glimpses of the ELF 2019 conference Glimpses of the ELF 2019 conference

Evangelical leaders from across Europe meet in Wisla (Poland) to network for mission in a range of fields. The vision is to renew the biblical church and evangelise Europe.

 
AEA Plaza opens to serve African evangelicals AEA Plaza opens to serve African evangelicals

After many years of labour, the Association of Evangelicals in Africa officially opened its new centre in Nairobi, Kenya. “Africa, your time has come!”, said the World Evangelical Alliance Secretary General Efraim Tendero.

 
‘Small churches, big potential for transformation’ ‘Small churches, big potential for transformation’

Photos of the Spanish Evangelical Alliance’s annual gathering “Idea 2019”, in Murcia. Politicians and church leaders discussed about the role of minorities in society.

 
VIDEO Video
 
Mercy Ships volunteers perform 100,000th free surgical procedure Mercy Ships volunteers perform 100,000th free surgical procedure

The milestone represents an important point in the nonprofit’s 40-year legacy.

 
What are the most important truths that Christians should seek to convey in a secular context? What are the most important truths that Christians should seek to convey in a secular context?

Espen Ottosen talks about the truths Christians should share with people who have little knowledge and/or many prejudices about Christian belief.  

 
A 50-metre high monument will encourage Britons to pray A 50-metre high monument will encourage Britons to pray

Thousands of visitors will have the chance to discover “the God who is alive who listens and answers prayers”.

 
John Lennox on Acts John Lennox on Acts

Professor John Lennox  examines the three supernatural events in the first three chapters of Acts: Jesus' ascension, the Holy Spirit's descent at Pentecost, and the healing of a lame man by the Apostles.

 
 
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.