Vertigo (1908), by Léon Spilliaert.
There is a dreadful sense of sadness in Spilliaert’s painting. It’s not like the conscious melancholy of C. D. F., or the dramatic expression of Munch. It’s something born from inside, and also directed inward. Eine Traurigkeit, die von Innen auskommt, und wieder nach Innen richtet.
The steps are curves and curves. Where is the vanishing point? What’s wrong with our depth perception?
The woman sitting there, part of her floating in the wind. She is unreachable, although she is just a few steps away.
What’s down there? The fear of darkness and height is among the most primitive instincts of human being. Why isn’t she afraid? Is she a part of the abyss?
The only shadow she casts is that of her feet. Thin grey stripes dragging out of the black facade of the stairs. They are the only roots she has to this world, otherwise she will just float away, black turns into grey and then dissolves in the white sky.
Au-dessus des étangs, au-dessus des vallées,
Des montagnes, des bois, des nuages, des mers,
Par delà le soleil, par delà les éthers,
Par delà les confins des sphères étoilées…
(Charles Baudelaire, Les Fleurs du Mal)