The Plague is a tempera painting created by Swiss symbolist artist, Arnold Böcklin, in 1898. The painting features a winged creature resembling a bat carrying Death through the streets of a medieval European town. Böcklin’s use of symbolism and allegory is evident in this work, which expresses his obsession with pestilence, war, and death.
The popularity of “The Plague” among late 19th-century German artists was significant as it presaged the Symbolism movement that emerged in the early 20th century with artists like Giorgio de Chirico and Salvador Dalí. In addition to its visual impact on its audience, it also influenced writers like Thomas Mann whose four-part novel ‘The Magic Mountain’ references Böcklin’s works.
Böcklin’s mood-filled landscapes and sinister allegories made him one of the masters of Western morbid Romanticism; however many modern art historians view him as an important transitional figure between Romanticism and Modernism due to his synthesis of ancient classicizing elements with modern psychological themes.
In summary, “The Plague” is an eerie masterpiece which epitomizes Arnold Böcklin’s unique style of combining mythical storytelling elements that are still adored by today’s contemporary artists while greatly influencing German art movements- Symbolism in particular as well as served the transition between Romanticism to Modernism.