Centaur at the Village Blacksmith Arnold Böcklin


Arnold Böcklin Basel 1827 – 1901 San Domenico

Date: 1888
Medium: oil on wood
Dimensions: 78.5 x 100 cm
Type: painting
Inventory number: 26.B
Collection: Department of Art after 1800

Trained in the tradition of Central European Realist landscape painting at the Academy in Düsseldorf, the Swiss artist Arnold Böcklin worked in a highly individual Symbolist style. His figures were the descendants of the fantastical late Romantic mythology that James Macpherson’s cycle of poems Ossian (1761) had introduced to European public consciousness.
He began working on Centaur at the Village Blacksmith in his Zurich workshop, after his return from Florence 1885. The painting takes its theme from a work by Böcklin’s writer friend Paul Heyse, The Last Centaur (1870), which fraws a parallel between the mythical creatures of classical antiquity and the nature spirits of German folklore. Böcklin spent three years painting the work, excising a number of distracting anecdotal elements along the way to create his final coherent and tension-laden image.

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