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Caspar David Friedrich

German Painter

Caspar David Friedrich Photo
Movements and Styles: Romanticism, The Sublime in Art

Born: September 5, 1774 - Greifswald, Swedish Pomerania (present day Germany)

Died: May 7, 1840 - Dresden, Germany

"All authentic art is conceived at a sacred moment and nourished in a blessed hour; an inner impulse creates it, often without the artist being aware of it."

Caspar David Friedrich Signature

Summary of Caspar David Friedrich

Seeking to capture an experience of the infinite, Caspar David Friedrich composed works that directly confronted the viewer with the awesome. Friedrich took the genre of landscape painting, traditionally considered unimportant, and infused it with deep religious and spiritual significance. Believing that the majesty of the natural world could only reflect the magnificence of God, he featured sunlight vistas and foggy expanses to convey the beautiful power of the divine.

Key Ideas

Friedrich's moody landscapes, which often thrust the viewer into the wilds of nature, created an emotional connection with the viewer rather than a more literal interaction with the scene. This integration of spiritual significance with landscape painting made him a popular success.
While conservative contemporaries challenged Friedrich's allegorical and religious landscapes, the artist maintained that his work never simply replicated a view, but rather provided opportunity to contemplate God's presence in the world. Using dramatic perspectives and misty, untamed expanses that dwarfed any figures, Friedrich encouraged the viewer to accept the awesome power of nature as evidence of a divine spirit.
Dismissing the picturesque traditions of landscape painting, Friedrich embraced the Romantic notion of the sublime. Through his sensitive depictions of mist, fog, darkness, and light, the artist conveyed the infinite power and timelessness of the natural realm; the viewer is physically reminded of his frailty and insignificance.
Friedrich's subtle color palette and emphasis on light often created an overwhelming sense of emptiness that would influence Modern Art. The visual minimalism of his paintings was so unusual that his audiences were often confused; reportedly, one group of art enthusiasts who visited his studio viewed a work upside down on the easel, believing the clouds were waves and the water was the sky. Modernists would learn from his use of subdued color and the simplicity of his compositions that still conveyed profound ideas.
Caspar David Friedrich Photo

The sixth of ten children, Caspar David Friedrich was born into a strict Lutheran family. He became familiar with tragedy at an early age, losing his mother when he was seven, and two sisters to childhood illnesses. Perhaps the most impactful loss was the death of his brother, Johann, who drowned while trying to rescue the then thirteen-year-old artist when he fell through the ice.

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