My Daily Art Display painting today is a mesmerising scene of a young man, believed to be a portrait of the artist himself, with his back to us perched on a rocky outcrop gazing out reverentially over a landscape which is almost hidden by thick swirls of fog and clouds. He is bedecked in a green frock-coat, leaning slightly on his walking stick, his curly blonde hair caught by the wind. We, the viewer, look with the eyes of this young man and can just make out, through the thick pervading grey fog, a middle ground with its small clumps of trees which stand atop a rocky escarpment. Further into the background one can see the tall greyish-blue toned mountains, lightly shrouded by the clouds, above which we are able to observe the sky with its slight glowing hue indicating that we are witnessing either the start or end of the day.
Casper David Friedrich, the German Romantic artist, painted Wanderer above the Sea of Fog in 1818 and it can be found in the Kunsthalle in Hamburg. It is one of the great Romantic landscape paintings of its time. The setting for his painting is a fusion of various mountains in the Saxony and Bohemia region. The outcrop of rocks on which the man stands is on the Kaiserkrone. The painting draws attention to the smallness and insignificance of an individual in comparison to the untamed and possibly hostile natural setting. Many of Friedrich’s paintings let people share his captivation with encountering nature in solitude whether it be from a rocky outcrop as in today’s painting or the frozen arctic as depicted in his painting The Arctic Sea. He was a Romantic artists and their belief was that any artist who wanted to explore his own emotions, had necessarily to stand outside of the throng of money-making, political gimmickry, and urban noise in order to assert and maintain their positions.
Caspar David Friedrich was born in Greifswald, Germany in 1774. At the age of twenty, he began his studies at the Academy in Copenhagen. In 1798 he moved and settled down in Dresden but travelled extensively throughout Germany. His landscapes, like that of his painting today, were based entirely of those of northern Germany and show in detail the breathtaking magnificence of the hills, harbours and weather conditions of that area which Friedich had observed. Many of his scenes are devoid of people and concentrate on menacing ravines, intimidating cliffs and terrifying seas of ice. One can see that in his landscape paintings, Friedrich gave more emphasis to threatening landscapes rather than the benign beautiful ones often painted by other artists.
David d’Angers, the French sculptor and contemporary of Friedrich said of Caspar David Friedrich, “Here is a man who has discovered the tragedy of landscape.”