Stefan à Wengen has known Arnold Böcklin's "Toteninsel" since his youth in Basel, where he saw it in a museum. The "Toteninsel" series is exciting in three respects:
Firstly, it reflects the subjective memory of the painter's youth: an aspect that questions art as a universal language, because its experience is purely subjective.
The series is also exemplary of à Wengen's strong conceptual approaches. It is a reference to Böcklin, who was a Basel painter as well. When à Wengen made the series in 2016, he was the same age as Böcklin when the latter created his paintings. The series also includes all five versions. Compared to the four preserved originals, the new paintings are executed in a much larger format and also changed. The fifth version by Böcklin no longer exists today. For this reason, à Wengen has reproduced this picture identically, thus emphasizing the loss as much as closing it. This also raises questions of originality and forgery, of artistic freedom and imitation.
Last but not least, à Wengen has also changed the perspective in the remaining four pictures: The ferryman is no longer visible. This means no less than that the viewer has meanwhile taken the position of the ferryman and his passengers. Through the change of perspective, the observer participates in the threatening crossing to the Isle of the Dead.