Polish Symbolist Jacek Malczewski (1854-1929) was one of that nation's finest painters. I think he should rank high on a worldwide measure because his works combine a high level of skill with the capacity to fascinate the viewer.
Perhaps unfortunately, Malczewski is best known for including himself in many paintings, often in costumes such as a suit of armor. These self-references have more to say than "Hi! It's me!" if the viewer can get past the artist's image and consider the rest of the painting. I might someday post a gallery of this phase of his work, but for now I thought I should deal with Malczewski's treatment of the symbolism of death.
In Western culture, death is often personified as the Grim Reaper, a hooded skeleton carrying a scythe. The Greeks personified death as a man, though not necessarily an old or dead one; his name was Thanatos.
Malczewski appropriated the name Thanatos as well as the scythe for some of his death paintings. But instead of a man, he depicted death as a beautiful, sometimes kindly woman.
Here are some of Malczewski's death-paintings:
Here Death gently closes the eyes of the man. It strikes me that Malczewski left Death slightly incomplete; note the lack of surface detail on her face in the general area of the nose.
This is perhaps the best-known Malczewski Thanatos. His anatomical depiction skill can be seen on the treatment of light falling on the shoulder, chest and hip. Click on the image for a better view (if your system allows it).
Another Thanatos from about the same time. A more dramatic scene, but not as visually interesting as the painting above. Click on the image for a larger view (if your system allows it).
A reprise of the 1902 Death painting.
Some of Malczewski's self-portraits included charaters from other paintings. Here he's joined by Thanatos. Click on the image for a larger view (if your system allows it).
Later in his career Malczewski moved beyond Smierc and Thanatos to provide an up-beat note, as the title of this painting indicates. Click on the image for a larger view (if your system allows it).