Featured Themes

Death

Memento Mori, vanitas, mortality — death is one of the most pervasive themes in art history. While many artworks celebrate afterlives in heaven or hell, death is most offen referenced as grim reminder of numbered days, and a powerful motivator to live well while you can. Every culture has rituals surrounding death, appearing in artwork as icons and colors. Hourglasses and wilted flowers for the Dutch, the Cuckoo bird in Japan, the Totenkopf in Germany.

All knowledge hath taught me, All sorrow hath brought me, Are smothered sighs That pleasure lies

Germ Vol. 2 — Chapter 10: O When and Where

Thomas Woolner — 1850

Her breath caught with short plucks and fast:— Then one hot choking strain. She never breathed again:

Germ Vol. 1 — Chapter 2: Of My Lady in Death

Thomas Woolner — 1850

I am one of those gods, the Powers who effect the triumph of Osiris over his adversaries on the day of the Weighing of the Words : I am thy kinsman, Osiris.

The Book of the Dead

1550 BC

Laocoön

El Greco — 1604-1614

And then everything will be ended. Everything will be ended. I shall die with the dying year.

The Journal of Marie Bashkirtseff — The Final Days

Marie Bashkirtseff — 1884

The town was on fire, the quarter where the poor Jews lived. They carried the bed and the mattress, the mother and the babe at her feet, to a safe place at the other end of town. But, first of all, I was born dead.

My Life - Marc Chagall Autobiography: Chapter 1

Marc Chagall — 1922

Silence was speaking at my side, With an exceedingly clear voice, I knew the calm as of a choice, Made in God for me, to abide.

Germ Vol. 1 — Chapter 7: My Sister's Sleep

Dante Gabriel Rossetti — 1850