Caspar David Friedrich - Wanderer above the sea of fog

Caspar David Friedrich: The Wintry Wanderer

Winter is upon us! No, I’m not quoting Game of Thrones. This time of year always beckons me to be whisked away to a romantic Wintry, ethereal landscape. No other artist has done this better than Caspar David Friedrich.

Caspar David Friedrich - Wanderer above the sea of fog

Besides this painting being EPIC AS F**K, ‘Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog, 1818’ evokes a passion we all have to escape the hum drum of life, and to go off exploring. To venture out into the wilderness, explore the unfamiliar and admire a breathtaking view, is something we could all easily be jealous of.

This intrepid, solitary ‘Wanderer’ reminds us of our relationship with the landscape and how insignificant we are. Such is the (unintentional ) somber tone that Caspar David Friedrich’s paintings possess. Some could say that this tone is reflective of Winter. But for me, Winter is a fascinating and bewitching season. Especially when it snows. We can all go a little bit crazy when everything is blanketed in shimmering white.

This is why I wanted to highlight some of Caspar David Friedrich’s works. To explore lands long forgotten and to stir up a bit of magic in time for Christmas!

Monastery Graveyard In The Snow
‘Monastery Graveyard in the Snow’, 1811

Bit of background

Part of the German Romantic movement, Friedrich was a landscape painter that lived between 1774 – 1840. After University, he settled in Dresden and became associated with the Romantics. He was renowned for his figurative landscapes depicting figures in remote, captivating scapes, barren trees and abandoned Gothic ruins.

His primary interest as an artist was the contemplation of nature, and his often symbolic and anti-classical work seeks to convey the spiritual experiences of life.

Winter landscape

‘Winter Landscape, 1811’ is a mystifying, celestial painting with a piece of unassuming drama being played out. When you study the painting, you can see that within this frosty, unrelenting landscape is a man, who has abandoned his crutches and is sat leaning against a rock. If you squint (and I mean, really squint) you can see he is praying to a crucifix. Most likely for salvation from his harsh surroundings. Okay, so the tone painted so far is pretty bleak. But what I like about this painting is the Gothic church or cathedral materializing in the far distance; a ghostly sanctuary and light at the end for the weary wanderer. You can view this painting at the National Gallery.

Dolmen in the Snow
‘Dolmen in the Snow’, 1807

The recurring theme in Friedrich’s works is the duality of the sublime versus the unforgiving elements of nature. It also questions how we, as humans, explore the landscape in these conditions. This notion of exploring the unknown and at your own peril, is for me, quite exciting. It reminds me of Scott of the Antarctic; the ill-fated explorer who wanted to be the first person ever to reach the South Pole.

The idea of exploring distant lands against Mother Nature is heroic, and shows the depths of the human spirit. And without sounding like a Frank Capra film (although ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ is one of my favourite Christmas films), that’s what Winter and Christmas conjure up for me. A time to escape the everyday. And Caspar David Friedrich documents this beautifully.

The Sea of Ice 1824
‘The Sea of Ice’, 1824

 

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