In the Sea

Painting of centaur with harp, in water, surrounded by mermaids and mermen.
CC0 Public Domain Designation

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  • Painting of centaur with harp, in water, surrounded by mermaids and mermen.

Date:

1883

Artist:

Arnold Böcklin
Swiss, 1827-1901

About this artwork

Arnold Böcklin’s art had little in common with Impressionism or the academic art of his time. Instead, his depictions of demigods in naturalistic settings interpret themes from Classical mythology in an idiosyncratic, often sensual manner. In the Sea, part of a series of paintings of mythological subjects, displays an unsettling, earthy realism. Mermaids and tritons frolic in the water with a lusty energy and abandon verging on coarseness. Occupying the center of the composition is a harpplaying triton. Three mermaids have attached themselves to his huge frame as if it were a raft; the one near his shoulder seems to thrust herself upon him. The work’s sense of boisterousness is tempered by the ominously shaped reflection of the triton and mermaids in the sea and by the oddness of the large-eared heads that emerge from the water at the right. In addition to imaginative, bizarre interpretations of the Classical world, Böcklin painted mysterious landscapes punctuated by an occasional lone figure. These haunting later works made him an important contributor to the international Symbolist movement. They also appealed to some Surrealist artists, particularly Giorgio de Chirico, who declared, “Each of [Böcklin’s] works is a shock.”

On View

European Painting and Sculpture, Gallery 244

Artist

Arnold Böcklin

Title

In the Sea

Origin

Switzerland

Date

1883

Medium

Oil on panel

Dimensions

34 3/8 × 45 3/4 in. (86.5 × 115 cm)

Credit Line

Joseph Winterbotham Collection

Reference Number

1990.443

Extended information about this artwork

Object information is a work in progress and may be updated as new research findings emerge. To help improve this record, please email .

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