when was wanderer over the sea of fog painted
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. 
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”. 
Now available in a new format, this beautifully illustrated volume on the controversial nineteenth-century Romantic artist addresses his modern critics while deepening our appreciation for his singular genius. “A painting must stand as a painting, made by human hand,” wrote Caspar David Friedrich, “not seek to disguise itself as Nature.” One of his generation’s most popular painters, Friedrich imagined landscapes of powerful beauty and spirituality from within the confines of his studios. This breathtaking monograph, filled with glorious reproductions and details of his paintings, argues for Friedrich’s reputation as a sublime artist and interpreter of nature.
Featured image: Caspar David Friedrich – The Abbey in the Oakwood, 1810. Oil on canvas. Height: 110.5 cm (43.5″); Width: 171 cm (67.3″). Collection Alte Nationalgalerie.
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”.
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.
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.
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.
Commonly referred to as The Tetschen Altar, Friedrich’s The Cross in the Mountains features a pine-covered mountaintop upon which stands a large crucifix. The cloud-filled sky is rendered in shades of red, pink, and violet which fade from dark to light from the top to the bottom of the canvas. Five beams of light emanate from a distant, unseen horizon.