Caspar David

Germany • 1774−1840
Caspar David Friedrich (September 5, 1774, Greifswald - May 7, 1840, Dresden) was a famous painter, one of the most significant artists of German Romanticism.

The Master's contemporaries felt the presence of a mysterious meaning in his works. Later interpretations of his ouevre, sometimes contradicting each other, were mostly consentaneous: those paintings spoke to the viewer using the language of philosophy – about the divine, existence, infinity, death, and hope.

One of the fundamental principles of the artist’s creative credo was that the painting should be created on the basis of what a painter saw not only in front of him, but also inside him. Behind the pacified restraint of the artist’s work was hidden the figure of the creator – a sharp and impulsive personality. He quickly succumbed to attacks of unbridled fun, as well as to long periods of melancholy. Being a loner, a misanthrope, he became the first artist who tried to complement the landscape genre with spiritual motives.

The duality of his nature was also manifested in the painter’s relationships with other people. Sometimes he was easy-going, witty and an unusually cheerful interlocutor. But there were times when the company of the artist became unbearable for people surrounded him.

The novelty of the artist’s work, of the brightest representative of the era of romanticism, Caspar David Friedrich, was not just in his painting style. The main idea in the painter’s artworks was really fresh – a man being in a world which was completely unfamiliar and cold to him but a truly magnificent one. That universal loneliness, which was associated with anthropomorphic images, was not portrayed in a straightforward manner - when it was ascertained, the master turned to allegories.

Features of the painter’s artworks

In the very early paintings, a thoughtful, rather mystical atmosphere of the artist’s work was visible. The viewer (in the place of which there were often people who contemplated the landscape being rather detached) saw a mysterious nature, immersed in silence, along with the signs of existence over reality. In the artworks by Caspar David Friedrich, such symbols were used as quite natural, important elements (the horizon line, mountains, ships or cities in the distance). The history, both ancient pagan and the Middle Ages, showed through melancholic motives (tomb of giants from a fairy tale, ruined temples, monasteries), where the emphasis was done more on tragic breaks rather than on the connection of times. The power of flowers, quite expressive, was moderated by fogs, sunset or predawn haze.

Caspar David Friedrich was an excellent landscape painter who worked in the style of romanticism. To him, nature was an expression of significant emotional unrest, often finding its symbolism and content.

Landscapes were used by him as a way to convey his innermost emotions, which somewhat resembled the works of his compatriot Altdorfer, who created several centuries earlier. Over time, the painter started duplicating things so dear to him, and the depictions of nature were occasionally replaced by the depictions of angels, visions of temples that soar in the sky. Other paintings by Caspar David Friedrich were close to the idyllic and descriptive Biedermeier style.

One of the inherent techniques of the master was placing the audience in the atmosphere of the painting itself. He often depicted a figure facing the landscape, completely occupied with observation and that was why the contemplator acquired there some kind of an “entry point” into the infinity of the world.

The most famous paintings by Caspar David Friedrich

The wreck of hope” and “The Stages of Life” paintings by Caspar David Friedrich  became a real calling card of the master. In his work, “The Stages of Life,” Caspar David Friedrich showed an empty Arctic coast, human subjects of different ages, and the same number of ships, approaching the coasts, which were located at different distances. That way the artist was able to accurately show the endless movement of time in his painting. The sunset depiction itself evoked a feeling of melancholy nostalgia.

Another famous painting by the artist from Germany, Caspar David Friedrich, was known as “The Wreck of Hope”, it was saturated with a clear sense of despair and complete hopelessness. The aesthetic spectacle of the triumph of the elements turned into an allegory - an image of death.

Many artworks by the painter Caspar David Friedrich, and his simple landscapes in particular, hid a deep meaning, the key to understanding of which came down to the words of the master or to the statements of his contemporaries.

The biography of the great painter

The future artist was born in a soapmaker family; he lost most of his relatives when he was very young – at first, the painter’s mother passed away and then two of his sisters and a brother died.

Since 1790, the painter had taken elementary art lessons. He studied painting at The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts (Copenhagen) from 1794 to 1798. After that, he returned from Denmark and traveled to different regions of Germany until he settled in Dresden. Caspar Friedrich was on good terms with the painter J. Dahl from Norway and had a considerable influence on his formation as an artist. Searching for subjects to paint, he repeatedly visited the island of Rugen, located in the Baltic Sea. Friedrich liked driving around the Harz, exploring Saxon Switzerland; sometimes he visited his hometown of Greifswald. Until 1807, he worked only in the drawing technique (mainly a pin or sepia), after which he also turned to oil. In 1810, the artist received success.

In 1812, due to the difficult situation at the fronts of Prussia, the painter was deprived of the support of the king.

In 1816, he was experiencing a significant psychological crisis, to a certain extent related to the outcome of hostilities, which could not but be reflected in his work. In 1818, the artist surprised everyone, even his closest friends, unexpectedly marrying the 19-year-old Caroline Bommer. During that year, the artist Caspar David Friedrich created 28 paintings, which gave a reason to call that period of time one of the most thriving in his entire artistic path.

In 1824, Frederick became a professor at the Dresden Academy of Fine Arts. His quotes and notes referring to art were pretty famous and emphasized that it was necessary to combine adherence to nature with the intuitive sensation, which the artist considered as a divine gift.

In June 1835, the painter suffered a stroke, he was partially paralyzed. Having been treated all summer, he started working again in October, confining himself to sepia drawings. However, his health condition was getting worse and worse.

The great artist died in poverty on May 7, 1840. For some time forgotten, the paintings by Caspar David Friedrich caught attention again only in the 20th century (since the heyday of surrealism).
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