2 paintings where caspar david friedrich uses the ruckenfigur motif
Friedrich’s formal art training, which began in 1790 at the University of Greifswald, involved outdoor painting and drawing classes, where students were encouraged to sketch from life. He was also influenced by the theologian Ludwig Gotthard Kosegarten, who taught that nature was a divine revelation, and by the melancholic Mannerist German artist Adam Elsheimer (1578-1610) – an inspiration to both Rubens and Rembrandt – whose lyrical landscapes and nocturnal scenes showed great sensitivity to the effects of light. Four years later Friedrich enrolled at the Copenhagen Academy of Fine Art, where he further improved his drawing from life. His stay in Copenhagen also gave him the opportunity to study the collection of 17th-century landscape painting by Dutch Realist artists – such as Aelbert Cuyp and Jacob van Ruisdael – at the Royal Museum of Fine Arts.
In 1798, Friedrich settled in Dresden. At first he focused on printmaking, producing etchings and designs for woodcuts, while in his painting activities he confined himself to inks and watercolours, with the odd exception in oils like Landscape with Temple in Ruins (1797). His specialist painting genre was, and remained, landscapes, although in later years he devoted a good deal of his time on portrait art and self-portraits.
Friedrich completed the first of his major paintings in 1808, at the age of 34. Cross in the Mountains, today known as the Tetschen Altar, is an altarpiece panel said to have been commissioned  for a family chapel in Tetschen, Bohemia. The panel depicts a cross in profile at the top of a mountain, alone, and surrounded by pine trees.  Controversially, for the first time in Christian art, an altarpiece had showcased a landscape. According to art historian Linda Siegel, Friedrich’s design was the “logical climax of many earlier drawings of his which depicted a cross in nature’s world.” 
During the 1930s, Friedrich’s work was used in the promotion of Nazi ideology,  which attempted to fit the Romantic artist within the nationalistic Blut und Boden.  It took decades for Friedrich’s reputation to recover from this association with Nazism. His reliance on symbolism and the fact that his work fell outside the narrow definitions of modernism contributed to his fall from favour. In 1949, art historian Kenneth Clark wrote that Friedrich “worked in the frigid technique of his time, which could hardly inspire a school of modern painting”, and suggested that the artist was trying to express in painting what is best left to poetry.   Clark’s dismissal of Friedrich reflected the damage the artist’s reputation sustained during the late 1930s. 
Mr. Koerner, among the foremost specialists in Northern Renaissance and 19th-century art, is Professor of the History of Art and Architecture at Harvard University.
Like so many of Friedrich’s landscapes, Early Snow fuses temporal extremes. The coming of winter may be the beginning of spring and the killing frost could just as well be a regenerative thaw. Friedrich assembles the old and the new in the picture’s vegetation: saplings rise above the snow in the foreground; behind them are older, larger trees until, in the background, the highest trees are red and dry with age. This notion of death combined with birth is developed by what is taken to be Early Snow’s pendant: the 1828 canvas entitled Easter Morning, now in Madrid. Repeating the Hamburg picture’s device of a road leading into the picture from the lower framing edge, Easter Morning stations three women in the foreground, recollecting the motif of the Three Marys traditional in scenes of Christ’s Resurrection. Read together, the two canvases would express an allegory of death and rebirth. Yet the play of life within death, of the early within the late, is already present in Friedrich’s Early Snow itself. Its landscape is of the fullness of the Augenblick which, as in the Verweile-doch of Goethe’s Faust, is the moment of ourselves. Standing before this painting, I am the first and the last to enter the wood.
Universally, the destruction of the man-made vessel at the hands of powerful and unforgiving nature fits with Friedrich’s admiration and awe of the natural world. In this inhospitable realm of frozen seas, man’s audacity and self-confidence are dashed like children’s toys by the immense force of the ice. We are dwarfed by the powers beyond our control.
Oil on canvas – Collection of Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia
The lead German painter who continually depicted the solitary figure or in German “Rückenfigur” and explored the domains of the landscape as a genre was Caspar David Friedrich. This notable figure created an impeccable oeuvre centered on the majestic depictions of natural surroundings inhabited by wandering figures searching for the inner piece from a diminished perspective. The contemplative quality was reached by the artist with the close observation of natural light.
The whole composition of The Stages of Life naturally indicates different periods of human existence, the end of a journey, and the certainty of death. The figures were identified as the artist and his family, while the depicted site is located at Utkiek, near Friedrich’s birthplace in northeastern Germany.