caspar david freidrich northern sea

Caspar david freidrich northern sea
The Giant Mountains (1830–1835). 72 × 102 cm. Alte Nationalgalerie, Berlin. Friedrich sought not just to explore the blissful enjoyment of a beautiful view, as in the classic conception, but rather to examine an instant of sublimity, a reunion with the spiritual self through the contemplation of nature. [102]
The Cross Beside The Baltic (1815), 45 × 33.5 cm. Schloss Charlottenburg, Berlin. This painting marked a move away by Friedrich from depictions in broad daylight, and a return to nocturnal scenes, twilight and a deeper poignancy of mood. [99]

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Caspar David Friedrich (5 September 1774 – 7 May 1840) was a 19th-century German Romantic landscape painter, generally considered the most important German artist of his generation. He is best known for his mid-period allegorical landscapes which typically feature contemplative figures silhouetted against night skies, morning mists, barren trees or Gothic ruins. His primary interest was the contemplation of nature, and his often symbolic and anti-classical work seeks to convey a subjective, emotional response to the natural world. Friedrich’s paintings characteristically set a human presence in diminished perspective amid expansive landscapes, reducing the figures to a scale that, according to the art historian Christopher John Murray, directs “the viewer’s gaze towards their metaphysical dimension”.
The visualisation and portrayal of landscape in an entirely new manner was Friedrich’s key innovation. He sought not just to explore the blissful enjoyment of a beautiful view, as in the classic conception, but rather to examine an instant of sublimity, a reunion with the spiritual self through the contemplation of nature. Friedrich was instrumental in transforming landscape in art from a backdrop subordinated to human drama to a self-contained emotive subject. Friedrich’s paintings commonly employed the Rückenfigur—a person seen from behind, contemplating the view. The viewer is encouraged to place himself in the position of the Rückenfigur, by which means he experiences the sublime potential of nature, understanding that the scene is as perceived and idealised by a human. Friedrich created the notion of a landscape full of romantic feeling—die romantische Stimmungslandschaft. His art details a wide range of geographical features, such as rock coasts, forests, and mountain scenes. He often used the landscape to express religious themes. During his time, most of the best-known paintings were viewed as expressions of a religious mysticism.

Caspar david freidrich northern sea
Friedrich’s attitude to nature, shared by a circle of romantic writers, philosophers, and other artists, in Dresden, was a spiritual one. Under the influence of Pietism—which was resistant to conventional Lutheran worship service and observation of the sacraments, for example—a pantheistic attitude prevailed, in which God was believed to manifest himself in the natural world. Thus the contemplation of nature –as expressed in the depiction of landscape—was a kind of devotion. Friedrich’s early paintings frequently contain overt religious symbols, such as crosses or Gothic churches rising through a northern mist. But references to the realm of the spirit, to the transience of life, to death, and to rebirth, become increasingly implicit rather than explicit in his landscapes.
Northern Landscape, Spring is a perfect example of Friedrich’s later approach to landscape painting. On one level it is simply a bleak winter landscape of a decidedly “northern” character. He studied nature meticulously through drawing during excursions outdoors, which gave him an intense awareness of nature’s changing moods. But his painted landscapes were created in the studio, invented in his imagination, albeit based on his empirical experience of nature. “The artist,” he once said, “should paint not only what he sees before him, but also what he sees within him.” Northern Landscape, Spring is a sensitive imagining of a cold winter’s day on a desolate heathland, frozen snow lying crisp on the ground, with distant mountains seen through a mist. Across a frozen lake or river, two tiny figures, perhaps huntsmen, are dwarfed into insignificance by the vast expanse of untrammeled nature. We can understand the observation of the French sculptor David d’Angers (1788-1856), who, after a visit to Friedrich in Dresden, described him as “the man who discovered the tragedy of landscape.” However, a subtly suggested glimmer of light in the sky suggests that the time of day may be dawn. Moreover, the “spring” of the title refers to the first blades of grass pushing through the snow in the foreground. Thus, for all that this place seems bleak and unwelcoming, there are suggestion of hope and rebirth inherent in the drama of nature itself.


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