wanderer above the sea of fog analysis romanticism
Some meaning of this work is lost in the translation of its title. In German, the title is “Wanderer über dem Nebelmeer”. Wanderer in German can mean either “wanderer” or “hiker”. 
Wanderer above the Sea of Fog is true to the Romantic style and Friedrich’s style in particular,  being similar to other works such as Chalk Cliffs on Rügen and The Sea of Ice. Gorra’s (2004) analysis was that the message conveyed by the painting is one of Kantian self-reflection, expressed through the wanderer’s gazings into the murkiness of the sea of fog.  Dembo (2001) sympathised, asserting that Wanderer presents a metaphor for the unknown future.  Gaddis (2004) felt that the impression the wanderer’s position atop the precipice and before the twisted outlook leaves “is contradictory, suggesting at once mastery over a landscape and the insignificance of the individual within it”. 
I touched on the spacing a little bit earlier. The waves and fog blur the line of the horizon, so it’s hard to tell where the sea ends and the mountains begin; the fog also contributes to distorting the viewer’s depth perception. This gives the feeling that the sea so vast that it can’t be clearly observed, and also emphasizes the great vastness of nature compared to the minute blip of existence that is mankind.
The environment of the painting was chosen to perfectly illustrate the order of man against a chaotic background. A violent, foggy sea is the harshest environment man could face, it could swallow you up in an instance and you would be gone forever without the slightest trace, lost for eternity to the treacherous waters. The sea also alludes to the bold spirit of sea travelers who explored new lands, conquering nature, exerting their will over it, daring to tread forth toward a fresh frontier, bravely going where no man had gone before.
Like so many of paintings by the German Romantic painter Caspar David Friedrich, the images focuses on a person gazing out over nature. We gaze out alongside him, a few paces behind perhaps, but still a companion in the moment. The terms for this device is Rückenfigur, or figure seen from behind, a compositional device by which the viewer can more readily identify with the scene.
Locating and representing the moods of nature was Friedrich’s underpinning as an artist. Born is 1774 in the harbour town of Greifswald, his first subjects were the wild Baltic coastlands of northeastern Germany. Gradually, his depictions of nature began to contain crosses, Gothic buildings and religious motifs reflecting his strict Lutheran upbringing. With these symbols he found a means of heightening the intensity of landscape to a level where it seems heavy with allegory. He often ‘invented’ his paintings by fusing together several sketches from different locations into one image, sometimes even using the sketches made by other artists to fulfill his vision.
To achieve this religious message, the depiction of mist was an important symbol for the artist. As he explained, “When a landscape is covered in fog, it appears larger, more sublime, and heightens the strength of the imagination and excites expectation, rather like a veiled woman. The eye and fantasy feel themselves more attracted to the hazy distance than to that which lies near and distant before us.” Positioning us before this vast expanse with no sense of foreground, he wanted to immerse the viewer in the experience of the natural realm; a dramatic field that he felt most closely expressed the beauty and power of God. This approach created a new possibility for religious painting, based not in overt Christian symbolism, but in direct contact with awesome beyond the control of man.
The positive reception of this pair of paintings contributed to Friedrich’ election as a member of the Berlin Academy and also drew the favor of Prince Friedrich Wilhelm Ludwig of Prussia, who purchased the two exhibited paintings for the royal collection; a prestigious honor. Beyond the accolades, however, this work demonstrates Friedrich’s experimental spirit. Any traditional approach to landscape painting has disappeared. At a quick glance, the compositional structure appears uneven and lacks a perspective focal point. Rather than illustrate a scene, Friedrich has created an opportunity for the viewer to experience a range of emotions, only suggested by the artist. If he had included more details, the viewer would be tempted to invent a narrative or story, but with this bare minimum, we are felt with only sensorial information.
It would not be an exaggeration to take this picture as the essence of the Romantic approach to art. Here, Friedrich has adapted the generic conventions of landscape painting to the demands of creative self-expression. Unwilling to have the artist serve as a mere “photographer” as it were of nature, Friedrich always took as his task the private and personal encounter of an individual with nature.
Wanderer above the Sea of Fog (Der Wanderer über dem Nebelmeer), also known as Wanderer above the Mist or Mountaineer in a Misty Landscape, is an oil painting c. 1818 by the German Romantic artist Caspar David Friedrich. It has been considered one of the masterpieces of Romanticism and one of its most representative works. It currently resides in the Kunsthalle Hamburg in Hamburg, Germany.