Arnold Bocklin, A la lisière du bois
Arnold Böcklin (1827-1901)

At the Edge of a Wood, ca. 1853.

Oil on canvas, H. 0.68 m; W. 0.95 m

Signed on the lower right (in red): A Böcklin pt.
Exhibition label on the revers: Frankfurt am Main 1914.

Provenance: Prof. Max Schmidt, painter, Weimar-Königsberg, ca. 1862.
Otto Hermann Claas, Königsberg, ca. 1898.
J. M. Herberle, Cologne, and sold by him at Lempertz Cologne, 23 April 1900, no. 6.
Hugo Toelle, Barmen, 1900.
Mrs. Hugo Toelle, Barmen, from 1926.
From 1962 with the two granddaughters: Erika Espitalier-Stenger at Delmenhorst and Lore Stenger at Leipzig.
Mr. Espitalier-Stenger at Oldenburg.
His son Michael Espitalier at Bremen from 1972.
Sale at Villa Grisebach Auktionen, Berlin, 25 November 2000, no. 225.
Italy, private collection.
Dorotheum Sale, Vienna, 11 October 2011, no. 58.
Switzerland, Private collection.

Literature:

Heinrich Alfred Schmid, Verzeichnis der Werke Arnold Böcklins. Vervollständigter und verbesserter Neudruck, der die Nachforschungen bis zum Herbst 1902 enthält, [Munich 1903], no. 150, with the comment that the artist reused this landscape for another painting begun in the summer of 1864, see no. 172.
Ludwig Thormaehlen, “Böcklins Studien aus den Jahren 1850 und 1851”, Repertorium für Kunstwissenschaft, t. 47, Berlin and Leipzig, 1926, p. 212.
Rolf Andree, Arnold Böcklin. Die Gemälde, Schweizerisches Institut für Kunstwissenschaft, Zürich (Oeuvrekataloge Schweizer Künstler 6), Basel and Munich, 1977, no. 86 “Am Waldrand”.

Our painting summarizes what the young Böcklin had learned and practiced in drawing and observing nature around Rome during the first two years of his time in Italy, from 1850 to 1852. This is a highly finished study of nature, showing typical aspects of the Roman Campagna: mossy rocks, rich vegetation and the stony bed of a dried up stream.Böcklin could have created our study around 1853. This is a simple landscape without any figures. Shortly afterwards, the first figures appeared in his paintings, initially in the form of a shepherd, small and insignificant before the powerful backdrop of nature, and then symbolic figures: Syrinx Fleeing before Pan of 1854 (Andree 1977, no. 81); Nymph at the Source of 1854-1855 (Andree 1977, no. 93, 94).

The next paintings show a landscape close to our composition: the small Diana Hunting of 1855 (Andree 1977, no. 84), Venus Sending Cupid of 1861 (Andree 1977, no. 135); Spring in its two versions of 1862 (Andree 1977, no. 136, 137) and the poet Petrarch of 1863-1864 (Andree 1977, no. 194). Figures dominate more and more, as in the Edge of the Wood with a Centaur and a Nymph of 1855 (Andree 1977, no. 97) and the two versions of Pan in the Reeds of 1857 and 1859 (Andree 1977, no. 114, 115).

A mythical idea extended his original vision of nature, which he represented in a suggestive and meticulous manner. Böcklin introduced fantastical figures into his compositions, which were most often monumental and thus throughout his career he sought to renew the genre of history painting of mythological subjects. Böcklin remains one of the major figures of symbolism.