Hugo Gerhard Simberg (1873-1917) was a Finnish symbolist painter and graphic artist. The two characters Simberg used most frequently for his art are the "Poor Devil" and Death personified. Simberg's paintings emphasize mainly topics macabre or supernatural.
Kuolema kuuntelee ("Death Listens") (1897). The painting depicts Death, personified as a skeleton wearing a black coat, listening with a bowed head as a young man plays the violin. In the background, there is an old woman lying on a bed, pale and apparently sickly. There is a suggestion that Death is there for the old woman, but that he is pausing so the young man, possibly the dying woman's son, can have time to finish his violin playing.
The Garden of Death (Kuoleman puutarha) (1896) depicts a gloomy, otherworldly scene. The central figures are reminiscent of the classic black-clad Grim Reaper, but paradoxically are tending to gardens; traditionally symbols of birth or renewal.
The Garden of Death is one of the few paintings whose symbolism Simberg explained; typically he preferred to let viewers come to their own conclusions. In a note on one sketch he described the garden as "the place where the dead end up before going to Heaven". The painting was a favourite subject of Simberg's and he made several versions using different techniques. Among the most famous of those is the larger version of the painting that exists in the Tampere Cathedral, which Simberg painted frescoes for in 1905 and 1906 (Second version).
Simberg's most famous painting The Wounded Angel (1903), is somewhat gloomy, its titular character appearing in the shape of a winged angel with a bandaged head, borne on a stretcher by two somberly dressed boys, one of whom looks toward the viewer with a serious expression. Simberg himself declined to offer any deconstruction, instead preferring the viewer to draw their own conclusions. However, it is known that Simberg had been suffering from meningitis, and that the painting was a source of strength during his recovery. This can also be read metaphorically: meningitis is known to cause neck stiffness, lethargy and light sensitivity, each of which is exhibited by the central figure. If read as lungs rather than wings, such a diagnosis even explains the minor injury, as tuberculor meningitis causes abrasions to the upper lungs.It is one of the most recognizable of Simberg's works, and was voted Finland's "national painting" in a vote held by the Ateneum art museum in 2006. Nightwish's music video, "Amaranth" is based on this particular painting.