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  • Russ Ramsey

Getting to Know Caspar David Friedrich

For this Art Wednesday we’ll look at 19th century German Romantic painter Caspar David Friedrich. “Wanderer above the Sea of Fog” (1818) was once described as “suggesting at once mastery over a landscape and the insignificance of the individual within it.”

Friedrich, Wanderer above the Sea of Fog, 1818


Friedrich’s work has a gothic quality to it. It reminds me a little of a tame Guillermo del Toro aesthetic, where his landscapes diminish the might of his people.

Friedrich, Man and Woman Contemplating the Moon, c. 1824


Friedrich became a celebrated painter when he was young. The French sculptor David d’Angers described him as a painter who had discovered “the tragedy of landscape.”

Friedrich, Seashore by Moonlight, 1835–36


As Germany advanced into the technological age, compositions like Friedrich’s fell out of favor, often regarded as relics of a bygone age where stillness was to be prized over achievement.

Friedrich, The Abbey in the Oakwood, 1808–10


The radical nature of his composition The Sea of Ice (1823-24) was at the same time a subject of much conversation, but ill-received for its fearsomeness—leading him to develop a growing pessimism about the world’s ability to receive his art.

Friedrich, The Sea of Ice, 1823–24


Friedrich lived during a time when his particular style fell out of fashion, and in the last years of his life his art was all but overlooked. He became known as a recluse who strolled the countryside alone.

Friedrich, Cemetery Entrance, 1825


Though Friedrich’s reputation and esteem during his lifetime waned with the ebb and flow of popular trends in art, he later became revered by the landscape artists of the 20th century.

Friedrich, The Stages of Life, 1835

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