friedrich caspar david artwork
Caspar David Friedrich was born on 5 September 1774, in Greifswald, Swedish Pomerania, on the Baltic coast of Germany. The sixth of ten children, he was brought up in the strict Lutheran creed of his father Adolf Gottlieb Friedrich, a candle-maker and soap boiler. Records of the family’s financial circumstances are contradictory; while some sources indicate the children were privately tutored, others record that they were raised in relative poverty. Caspar David was familiar with death from an early age. His mother, Sophie Dorothea Bechly, died in 1781 when he was just seven. A year later, his sister Elisabeth died, while a second sister, Maria, succumbed to typhus in 1791. Arguably the greatest tragedy of his childhood happened in 1787 when his brother Johann Christoffer died: at the age of thirteen, Caspar David witnessed his younger brother fall through the ice of a frozen lake, and drown. Some accounts suggest that Johann Christoffer perished while trying to rescue Caspar David, who was also in danger on the ice.
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.
Friedrich died in Dresden on 7 May 1840, and was buried in Dresden’s Trinitatis-Friedhof (Trinity Cemetery) east of the city centre (the entrance to which he had painted some 15 years earlier). The simple flat gravestone lies north-west of the central roundel within the main avenue.
Both Friedrich’s life and art have at times been perceived by some to have been marked with an overwhelming sense of loneliness.  Art historians and some of his contemporaries attribute such interpretations to the losses suffered during his youth to the bleak outlook of his adulthood,  while Friedrich’s pale and withdrawn appearance helped reinforce the popular notion of the “taciturn man from the North”.  
Friedrich was born in Greifswald in northern Germany in 1774. He studied in Copenhagen until 1798 before settling in Dresden. He came of age during a period when, across Europe, a growing disillusionment with an over-materialistic society led to a new appreciation for spiritualism. This 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”.
(September 5, 1774 – May 7, 1840)
This simple painting of a mountain peak awash in a white mist of early dawn fog, surrounded by barely discernable pine trees and rocky outcroppings manifests Friedrich’s ideals of the Romantic landscape. This majestic, remote view of monumental nature implied a connection to a higher power, particularly in its scale and use of light. Here, a break in the clouds allows light to shine through, as if illuminating the mountain peak with a divine light.
Wanderer above a Sea of Fog (sometimes also referred to as “Sea of Mist”) depicts a lone man, formally dressed and holding a walking cane, standing on an outcropping of rocks looking out at an inhospitable expanse. He stands perfectly still, only his hair ruffled by an unseen wind, against a tumultuous field that churns at his feet. In the background is a sky filled with white puffy clouds and the outline of mountaintops barely visible through the mist. As the man contemplates the vastness before him, the sublimity of nature is demonstrated not in a calm, serene view, but in the sheer power of what natural forces can accomplish.
The followers of this movement rejected modernity – the aristocratic social and political norms of the Age of Enlightenment, the technological novelties of the Industrial Revolution, and the scientific rationalization of nature. Romanticism was embraced by then-emerging nation-states and was further instrumentalized by the reactionary right-wing discourse in the first half of the 20th century, however, it didn’t change the fact that it contributed much to culture and science.
The last Freidrich painting on our list was thought to be made in 1834, just five years before his death. It depicts an idyllic, yet allegorical scene set on a seashore with an older man turning his back to the viewer, walking towards two adults and two children on a hill overlooking a harbor.