This drawing is related to a later series of Kubin's works, The Eternal Flame, based on German folktales and myths. A flaming cauldron placed in the center of the composition is a recurring motif in the series. The feeling of horror and mystery of this image is created through a subtle play of light and dark that envelops the foreground figures in an enigmatic veil. Light dramatizes and brings forth from the shadows both the flame and the floating skull, thus heightening the effect of a hallucinatory vision.
Most of Kubin's drawings evoke a fantastic nightmarish mood, high drama, and mystery. The eerie, unreal quality characteristic of his work may possibly be related to his early apprenticeship to a photographer, since Kubin's images seem to emerge out of the darkness, much as negatives develop in a darkroom.
Although most of Kubin's adult life falls within the twentieth century, his art—primarily drawings—belongs to the Austrian Symbolism of the end of the nineteenth century. The graphic work of Francisco Goya, James Ensor, Max Klinger, Odilon Redon, and particularly Hieronymus Bosch offered him stylistic inspiration, while his subject matter was steeped in the incompatible philosophies of Friedrich Nietzsche and Arthur Schopenhauer.
Publication excerpt from The Museum of Modern Art, MoMA Highlights, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, revised 2004, originally published 1999, p. 48.