GUSTAVE COURBET 1819-1878 Realistic School of France
ARNOLD BOECKLIN 1827-1901 Modern German School
A GLANCE at these two pictures -- Boecklin Isle of the Dead and Courbet's Funeral at Ornans -- reveals at once a great contrast.
In Boecklin's composition the horizontal line is subordinated to the vertical ones; these spire up or tower in bastion-like masses, lifting our imagination with them. In Courbet's, however, the almost level line of the landscape shuts down like a lid upon the parallel horizontal group of figures; the only vertical line that detaches itself is that of the crucifix; but this is too slight to overcome the impression that the composition holds our thoughts to the ground.
These differences of composition correspond to the differences of the artists' motives. Boecklin sought to produce an effect of solemn grandeur, of tranquil isolation, not unmixed with awe; of contrast between the monumental permanence of the island and the frailty and insignificance of the boat, which carries the mourner and the dead over the shifting water to the dead's long home. On the other hand, in Courbet's picture there is no grandeur either of sentiment or appearance; none of the awe that belongs to isolation nor much of the solem-