Caspar David Friedrich
(1774 - 1840)
- The Wanderer Above the Mists (1817-18)
- The Sea of Ice (1824)
- Landscape with Grave, Coffin and Owl (1836-37)
Caspar David Friedrich emerged at the end of the nineteenth century as one of Germany's most gifted Romantic landscape painters. Friedrich spent much of his childhood alone, following the death of his sister, brother, and mother. He took solace in the beauty of nature, and took frequent walks in the countryside. This time communing with the landscape of his homeland formed important roots which would appear later in his artwork. Friedrich traveled to Copenhagen to study at the Academy of Fine Arts, but soon moved to Dresden, where he came in contact with painters, writers, and intellectuals of the Romantic school. His paintings were celebrated by many, including the German poet Goethe. Friedrich studied nature with an eye for accuracy and detail, however, his paintings are not scientific studies. Instead, they are infused with an intense spirituality. His painting Abbey in an Oak Forest, 1809-1810, shows barren and gnarled trees in an ancient cemetery. This meditation on death is solemn, and hushed. Human subjects appearing in Friedrich's work are typically secondary in importance to the environment, serving in many cases to illustrate the vastness and wonder of the natural world. The crown prince of Prussia admired Friedrich's work, and became a patron. Friedrich's prosperity grew even further when he was nominated into the Academy of Berlin and elected into the membership of the Academy of Dresden. Acclaim for Friedrich and his work would not last. Depression was a permanent fixture in Friedrich's life, and while his struggle with the disease undoubtedly inspired many of his important works, it would eventually prove insurmountable. Friedrich's art for the last fourteen years of his life was marked by symbols of death and ruin. He died virtually unknown, and remained so until Symbolists in the nineteenth-century were drawn to his extreme and moody landscapes.