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Observations placeholder

Böcklin, Arnold - Die Heimkehr (The Homecoming or The Return) 1887



Type of Spiritual Experience


A description of the experience

Ashkenazy plays Rachmaninov Prelude Op.32 No.10 in B minor

Rachmaninoff was inspired by Böcklin's painting Die Heimkehr ("The Homecoming" or "The Return") when writing his Prelude in B minor, Op. 32, No. 10.



Böcklin was born in Basel, but for a large part of his working life he had lived and worked in Italy. From 1876 to 1885, Böcklin, for example, had worked in Florence.  But in 1886, he went ‘home’ and from 1886 to 1892 he settled in Zürich.  Thus we could simply interpret this painting to be a straightforward representation of how he felt about having  ‘come home’.

But there is a bit more than just the literal coming home, as ‘the long journey home’ is death, the journey we take when we die.

The man in the painting is in the ‘autumn of his years and the dam with its water is really a ‘store’ of spiritual energy and inspiration he has been able to accumulate during life - the square is the symbol for the Earth - the physical.

He is looking at a symbolic light at the end of the tunnel.  Böcklin died of tuberculosis, aged 73, 9 years after this was painted.  It is possible that this has nothing to do with Switzerland.  But it may be far more about how he felt about an inevitable death from tuberculosis. 

He is ready to start the journey, and the light at the end of the tunnel is warm and welcoming.  Böcklin may have had to face death a number of times as he lost his friends and children, but this may tell us that he had no fear of it himself. 


The source of the experience

Böcklin, Arnold

Concepts, symbols and science items



Science Items

Activities and commonsteps