A Little Phantasy on a Nineteenth-Century Painting


The painting in question is the same one used as the source for the pictures in the previous post, The Isle of the Dead by Arnold Böcklin, which is here transformed in a very short animated film by Norman McLaren. Watching this again I thought it might have been created with the pinscreen (previously) since the NFB posting doesn’t offer any information about the technique used. The close shots, however, reveal the kinds of texture and smudges common to pastel drawing. McLaren followed this a few years later with a pastel animation in colour which he titled A Phantasy.


This isn’t the only cinematic rendering of Böcklin’s painting—Toteninsel.net lists a few more—but it may be the only one that ends by withdrawing the sea that surrounds the island. This spoils the setting a little but it adds a finishing touch. That’s the trouble with animating paintings, you’re always compelled to account for the passage of time in a scene that exists in a timeless space.

Previously on { feuilleton }
L’île des Morts
More Isles of the Dead
Isles of the Dead
A Picture to Dream Over: The Isle of the Dead
The Isle of the Dead in detail
Arnold Böcklin and The Isle of the Dead

3 thoughts on “A Little Phantasy on a Nineteenth-Century Painting”

  1. If anyone wants to try some music other than the orchestral soundtrack provided with the A Little Phantasy video Frippertronics works really well too. Just saying.

  2. The National Film Board of Canada has a pretty good YouTube channel now, lots of Norman McLaren’s films there.

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