Karl Woermann, 'Zur Baseler Böcklin-Ausstellung 1897', in Von Apelles zu Böcklin und weiter. Gesammelte kunstgeschichtliche Aufsätze, Vorträge und Besprechungen, Esslingen am Neckar, 1912, vol. 2, p. 157
Henriette Mendelsohn, Böcklin, Berlin, 1901, pp. 32-4, 78, 107
Heinrich Alfred Schmid, Verzeichnis der Werke Arnold Böcklins, Munich, 1903, no. 40
Richard Hamann, Die deutsche Malerei im 19. Jahrhundert, Leipzig and Berlin, 1914, pp. 188-89 (titled Reiter im Mondschein)
Günther Kleineberg, Die Entwicklung der Naturpersonifizierung im Werk Arnold Böcklins (1827-1901). Studien zur Ikonographie und Motivik in der Kunst des 19. Jahrhunderts, Dissertation, Göttingen, 1971, pp. 41, 42, 44 & 185
Rolf Andree, Arnold Böcklin, Basel and Munich, 1977, p. 202, no. 55, catalogued and illustrated
This charged early landscape was painted when Böcklin was just twenty-two. With its distinctly Romatic overtones, the painting reflects Böcklin's most formative artistic influences, from his teachers at the Düsseldorf Academy, Johann Wilhelm Schirmer and Carl Friedrich Lessing; the Romantic painters more generally, but in particular Carus, Blechen, and Friedrich; to the seventeenth-century Dutch masters Ruysdael and Hobbema.
From as early as the Renaissance, during the Dutch Golden Age, and throughout the work of the German Romantics, the ruin is a metaphor for the passing of time and the inevitable fall of all things terrestrial and of all human endeavour. Sublime nature reigns supreme. The passing rider and drifting clouds in the stormy moonlit sky add to the mood of transience.
In the case of the present work, the ruin and the sombre, stormy landscape may have a more temporal and self-referential meaning. The violent 1848 Revolution in Paris, which Böcklin witnessed at first hand, left a deep impression on the young Swiss artist, who is reputed to have watched prisoners being herded by soldiers past his apartment near the Jardin du Luxembourg. As an expression of a driven young man, the present work epitomises the Sturm und Drang which ran through his work as a young painter.
The present work can be seen as a prototype for a subject to which Böcklin returned time and again over his long career, and which culminated in such famous works as The Island of the Dead, of a ruined temple hewn from a rocky outcrop in the sea.
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