40 Faces of Death: A Grim Reaper Gallery

Death and the Artist
Fine Art Images/Heritage Images/Getty Images

Arnold Böcklin's "Self-portrait with Death Playing the Fiddle" stands as one of my all-time favorite contemplations on mortality. Here is the mortal artist attempting to create something that lasts beyond his meager allotment of years.

To paraphrase T.S. Ellitot, Böcklin "was much possessed by death and saw the skull beneath the skin." As detailed on Art Spotlight, he became particularly obsessed by death following the loss of his infant daughter Maria, influencing this painting as well as his most famous work, "Isle of the Dead."

About the Author: Robert Lamb spent his childhood reading books and staring into the woods — first in Newfoundland, Canada and then in rural Tennessee. There was also a long stretch in which he was terrified of alien abduction. He earned a degree in creative writing. He taught high school and then attended journalism school. He wrote for the smallest of small-town newspapers before finally becoming a full-time science writer and podcaster. He’s currently a senior writer at HowStuffWorks and has co-hosted the science podcast Stuff to Blow Your Mind since its inception in 2010. In his spare time, he enjoys traveling with his wife Bonnie, discussing dinosaurs with his son Bastian and crafting the occasional work of fiction.