david caspar freidrich
With the composition of the figure’s back placed towards the observer otherwise known as Rückenfigur,  it allows the observer to gain insight into Friedrich’s experience.  Friedrich himself states his ideas in regards to this, “The artist should paint not only what he has in front of him but also what he sees inside himself.” 
In the foreground, a young man stands upon a rocky precipice with his back to the viewer. He is wrapped in a dark green overcoat, and grips a walking stick in his right hand.  His hair caught in a wind, the wanderer gazes out on a landscape covered in a thick sea of fog. In the middle ground, several other ridges, perhaps not unlike the ones the wanderer himself stands upon, jut out from the mass.  Through the wreaths of fog, forests of trees can be perceived atop these escarpments. In the far distance, faded mountains rise in the left, gently leveling off into lowland plains in the right. Beyond here, the pervading fog stretches out indefinitely, eventually commingling with the horizon and becoming indistinguishable from the cloud-filled sky. 
(September 5, 1774 – May 7, 1840)
Caspar David Friedrich (September 5, 1774 – May 7, 1840) was a landscape painter of the nineteenth-century German Romantic movement, of which he is now considered the most important painter. A painter and draughtsman, Friedrich is best known for his later allegorical landscapes, which feature contemplative figures silhouetted against night skies, morning mists, barren trees, and Gothic ruins. His primary interest as an artist was the contemplation of nature, and his often symbolic and anti-classical work seeks to convey the spiritual experiences of life.
Friedrich’s written commentary on aesthetics was limited to a collection of aphorisms set down in 1830, in which he explained the need for the artist to match natural observation with an introspective scrutiny of his own personality. His best-known remark advises the artist to “close your bodily eye so that you may see your picture first with the spiritual eye. Then bring to the light of day that which you have seen in the darkness so that it may react upon others from the outside inwards.”  He rejected the overreaching portrayals of nature in its “totality”, as found in the work of contemporary painters like Adrian Ludwig Richter (1803–84) and Joseph Anton Koch (1768–1839).
On 21 January 1818, Friedrich married Caroline Bommer, the twenty-five-year-old daughter of a dyer from Dresden.  The couple had three children, with their first, Emma, arriving in 1820. Physiologist and painter Carl Gustav Carus notes in his biographical essays that marriage did not impact significantly on either Friedrich’s life or personality, yet his canvasses from this period, including Chalk Cliffs on Rügen—painted after his honeymoon—display a new sense of levity, while his palette is brighter and less austere.  Human figures appear with increasing frequency in the paintings of this period, which Siegel interprets as a reflection that “the importance of human life, particularly his family, now occupies his thoughts more and more, and his friends, his wife, and his townspeople appear as frequent subjects in his art.” 
Friedrich was born in the Pomeranian town of Greifswald at the Baltic Sea, where he began his studies in art as a young man. He studied in Copenhagen until 1798, before settling in Dresden. He came of age during a period when, across Europe, a growing disillusionment with materialistic society was giving rise to a new appreciation of spirituality. This shift in ideals was often expressed through a reevaluation of the natural world, as artists such as Friedrich, J. M. W. Turner and John Constable sought to depict nature as a “divine creation, to be set against the artifice of human civilization”.
Friedrich’s work brought him renown early in his career, and contemporaries such as the French sculptor David d’Angers spoke of him as a man who had discovered “the tragedy of landscape”. Nevertheless, his work fell from favour during his later years, and he died in obscurity. As Germany moved towards modernisation in the late 19th century, a new sense of urgency characterised its art, and Friedrich’s contemplative depictions of stillness came to be seen as the products of a bygone age. The early 20th century brought a renewed appreciation of his work, beginning in 1906 with an exhibition of thirty-two of his paintings and sculptures in Berlin. By the 1920s his paintings had been discovered by the Expressionists, and in the 1930s and early 1940s Surrealists and Existentialists frequently drew ideas from his work. The rise of Nazism in the early 1930s again saw a resurgence in Friedrich’s popularity, but this was followed by a sharp decline as his paintings were, by association with the Nazi movement, interpreted as having a nationalistic aspect. It was not until the late 1970s that Friedrich regained his reputation as an icon of the German Romantic movement and a painter of international importance.
Other scholars have read autobiographical interpretations into the painting that reference the loss of the artist’s beloved brother in a childhood accident. Friedrich himself had fallen through some ice and his brother died trying to save him. We know that, in his later years, Friedrich often used his paintings to reflect of questions of loss and mortality, coming to terms with the tragedies of his childhood.
A study in subtle colors, rendered in soft shades of browns, yellows, and white, this painting depicts the crumbling remains of a Gothic abbey set amongst a field of barren leafless trees. The outlines of cross markers and tombstones are scattered around the remaining wall of the abbey entrance with its tall thin window. The bare outline of a few monks can be seen about to pass through what remains of the church’s entrance, perhaps making a pilgrimage to mourn the dead.