wanderer over the sea of fog full
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. 
The painting is composed of various elements from the Elbe Sandstone Mountains in Saxony and Bohemia, sketched in the field but in accordance with his usual practice, rearranged by Friedrich himself in the studio for the painting. In the background to the right is the Zirkelstein. The mountain in the background to the left could be either the Rosenberg or the Kaltenberg. The group of rocks in front of it represent the Gamrig near Rathen. The rocks on which the traveler stands are a group on the Kaiserkrone. 
The success of this painting, I think, lies in the possibility of this ambiguity: that a scene of such glory can also pose the threat of tragedy or personal alienation. What is he thinking as he stands there? It is impossible to tell.
What is he thinking as he stands there? It is natural to make the case for an optimistic interpretation: that he has trekked to the top of this rocky precipice, and now, exalted by his efforts, looks over the entire world — glorious and inspired, elevated and dignified.
One of the greatest paintings in the history of German art (and, indeed, the history of art in general) has got to be Der Wanderer über dem Nebelmeer (The Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog) by Caspar David Friedrich (1774–1840). The painting depicts a man, facing away from the viewer toward the foggy precipices before him with cane in hand. The absence of the face, an element which instantly pulls the viewer in, forces a look toward the man’s surroundings and perhaps his thoughts. The picture is one of introspection and connection to nature. Friedrich was the foremost painter of the Romantic movement in what is today Germany. A portrait of the painter by Gerhard von Kügelgen gives us an image of the man who all too often left the human face out of his own pictures — a man with an intense gaze.
“The growth of the mind is the widening of the range of consciousness, and … each step forward has been a most painful and laborious achievement.” -Carl Jung, Contributions to Analytical Psychology (1928)
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”.
Robert Macfarlane discusses the painting in terms of its significant influence on how mountain climbing has been viewed in the Western world since the Romantic era, calling it the “archetypical image of the mountain-climbing visionary”, and describing its power in representing the concept that standing on mountain tops is something to be admired, an idea which barely existed in earlier centuries.
By placing his back toward the viewer he is not shutting them out – rather he enables them to see the world through his own eyes, to share and convey his personal experience.
Use of technique:
Once again Friedrich employs the Ruckenfugen technique in which he paints the figure with his back towards the viewer. This makes the figure something of a mystery to the viewer – they are unsure what he is thinking or his reaction to the landscape that they too are taking in.