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Ferdinand Keller


German Ferdinand Keller's (1842-1922) history paintings and landscapes were influenced both by ancient mythology and by the rain forests he had known in Brazil during his youth. Another important influence was Arnold Böcklin, whose celebrated painting The Island of the Dead exudes the mystical feeling echoed in Keller’s own Böcklin’s Tomb.

Keller showed exceptional artistic talent while only a child. At the age of fifteenhe moved to Brazil with his father and brother, frequently sitting outside drawing the tropical scenery around him. On returning to Germany in 1862 he began to study more formally at the Karlsruhe Academy of Arts, under Wilhelm Schirmer for landscape and Hans Canon for figure painting. He also travelled widely in Europe, visiting e.g. Switzerland, France and Italy.

He used his landscape and figure sketches from Italy as a basis for later history paintings, and indeed is best-known for his work in this genre.  The influence of Arnold Böcklin was strongest around 1900, a period when Keller’s landscapes expressed melancholy, expressed through dark cypresses, misty valleys and lowering clouds.