friedrich caspar david paintings
Although the altarpiece was generally coldly received, it was Friedrich’s first painting to receive wide publicity. The artist’s friends publicly defended the work, while art critic Basilius von Ramdohr published a long article challenging Friedrich’s use of landscape in a religious context. He rejected the idea that landscape painting could convey explicit meaning, writing that it would be “a veritable presumption, if landscape painting were to sneak into the church and creep onto the altar”.  Friedrich responded with a programme describing his intentions in 1809, comparing the rays of the evening sun to the light of the Holy Father.  This statement marked the only time Friedrich recorded a detailed interpretation of his own work, and the painting was among the few commissions the artist ever received. 
Friedrich began his formal study of art in 1790 as a private student of artist Johann Gottfried Quistorp at the University of Greifswald in his home city, at which the art department is now named Caspar-David-Friedrich-Institut  in his honour. Quistorp took his students on outdoor drawing excursions; as a result, Friedrich was encouraged to sketch from life at an early age.  Through Quistorp, Friedrich met and was subsequently influenced by the theologian Ludwig Gotthard Kosegarten, who taught that nature was a revelation of God.  Quistorp introduced Friedrich to the work of the German 17th-century artist Adam Elsheimer, whose works often included religious subjects dominated by landscape, and nocturnal subjects.  During this period he also studied literature and aesthetics with Swedish professor Thomas Thorild. Four years later Friedrich entered the prestigious Academy of Copenhagen, where he began his education by making copies of casts from antique sculptures before proceeding to drawing from life.  Living in Copenhagen afforded the young painter access to the Royal Picture Gallery’s collection of 17th-century Dutch landscape painting. At the Academy he studied under teachers such as Christian August Lorentzen and the landscape painter Jens Juel. These artists were inspired by the Sturm und Drang movement and represented a midpoint between the dramatic intensity and expressive manner of the budding Romantic aesthetic and the waning neo-classical ideal. Mood was paramount, and influence was drawn from such sources as the Icelandic legend of Edda, the poems of Ossian and Norse mythology. 
Caspar David Friedrich, Winter Landscape, 1811, National Gallery London
Caspar David Friedrich, The Abbey in the Oakwood, 1808–10, Alte Nationalgalerie, Berlin
(September 5, 1774 – May 7, 1840)
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”.
The first Friedrich painting on our top list is the iconic Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog (Der Wanderer über dem Nebelmeer) or Mountaineer in a Misty Landscape made by the artist in 1818. It is considered one of Friedrich’s most representative paintings and one of the masterpieces of Romanticism, now held at Kunsthalle Hamburg in Germany.
Caspar David Friedrich emerged as a painter at the time Europe was rapidly shifting in social and political sense; a time when a growing disappointment with materialistic society was transforming to a new appreciation of spirituality. Therefore, the natural world was perceived and depicted by the artists as “a divine creation, to be set against the artifice of human civilization.”
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.
In The Stages of Life, five ships are at sea, moving toward a distant horizon. They are mirrored by five figures depicted on the grassy shore in the foreground: two small children, a boy and a girl, are watched by a young woman while a middle-aged man turns back from the water to address an elderly man in a long formal coat, hat, and cane. Dating from the later years of Friedrich’s life, when the artist had withdrawn into near solitude, scholars have argued that the elderly man is a self-portrait and the others represent Friedrich’s nephew and his three children.