Elisabeth Corveleyn, Feigenbaum

The Collection and The Human Journey

What Does it Mean to Lead a Life of Meaning and Purpose?

Elisabeth Corveleyn, Feigenbaum
(Across from the Registrar’s Window)

Elisabeth Corveleyn’s large triptych (three-panel painting), Feigenbaum, was inspired by a poem of the same title by the Bohemian poet Rainer Maria Rilke (1875-1926). Corveleyn was particularly interested in the tensions Rilke found between the physical and spiritual worlds and her canvases are expressive of the “stresses and strains and the contemplation of opposing forces” that she discovered in Rilke’s poetry.

Feigenbaum (or Figtree, in English) is the title of the sixth of Rilke’s Duino Elegies. In it, he explores the qualities that make a person extraordinary, heroic. Midway through the poem for example, Rilke muses:

In a few the urge to action rises so powerfully,
that they are already waiting and glowing with their heart’s fullness
when the temptation to flower, like the mild night air,
touches their tender mouths, touches their eyelids:
heroes perhaps, and those chosen to vanish prematurely,
in whom Death the gardener wove different veins.
Corveleyn’s technique was similarly inspired by Rilke. She put paint on the canvases and then physically bounced them to “encourage random arcs, splatters and color fusion” to occur without her interference, but rather in response to “prevailing forces” such as gravity. She then interpreted and enhanced what she saw in her canvases, noting that: “In a way I imprison[ed] those runaway washes and vagaries with biomorphic form – much as I think Rilke saw life – and struggled to reconcile flesh and blood with the dangerous free world of the spirit.”

Anne Bolin, Ph.D.
Department of Graphic Design & Visual Arts