The Way of Silence

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Frantisek Kupka

1871-1957

Symbolist painter, illustrator, printmaker, cartoonist and graphic artist

The Way of Silence


Oil on canvas

According to Audrey Wagtberg Hansen in her article "Cold Gods and Fatal Women./ The Many Faces of the Sphinx in the 19th Century", Kupka's Way of Silence was "inspired by the poem Dream-land by Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849), [where] we see a lone traveller on a seemingly endless road under a starry sky, flanked by two rows of stone sphinxes. A Latin text on the pedestal of the front sphinx, 'QUAD AD CAUSUM SUMUS' (= why are we?), again poses a life-and-death question."

Although Kupka's painting certainly doesn't correspond to Poe's Dream-land (1850) in the particulars of its imagery, its depiction of a pathway through eternity certainly captures the atmosphere of the poem's opening stanza:

    BY a route obscure and lonely,
    Haunted by ill angels only,
    Where an Eidolon, named NIGHT,
    On a black throne reigns upright,
    I have reached these lands but newly
    From an ultimate dim Thule —
From a wild weird clime that lieth, sublime,
        Out of SPACE — out of TIME.