Caspar David Friedrich is a renowned German painter and one of the key figures of Romantism. His paintings, a blend of melancholia and poetry, carry messages as simple as powerful. They are now part of the Germanic patrimony and most of them are kept in German museums. Two centuries later, Friedrich’s outlook is still fascinating the world. Between tragedy and spirituality, there follows his portrait and major paintings.

Life and inspirations of Caspar David Friedrich

His childhood

Born in 1774 in Greifswald, a small trading city in the northern Germany, Caspar David Friedrich grow up near the Baltic Sea. From an early age, he enjoys contemplating nature and find comfort there. His father is a craftsman and his mother died few years after his birth. However, the biggest tragedy of his life happened when he was 13, he saw his brother drowning in a frozen lake and losing his life. This tragic event will later explain why Friedrich artworks transliterate dark theme such as loneliness, melancholia and mourning.  

A romantic vision of the world

Romantism appeared during the XVIIIth century and represented a complete revolution. Emotions and sensitivity became a source of pride. Caspar David Friedrich had a sentimental vision of the world. He exposed his emotions as they truly are, through the simplicity of a natural landscape.

While romantic writers as Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe, Charles Baudelaire or George Sand expressed their emotions with words, Friedrich expressed them through painting, mixing colours and textures. His artworks portrayed sadness, love or else the meaning of life quest.

Post mortem success

While William Turner, John Constable and Eugène Delacroix got successful during their lifetime, Friedrich’s talent was recognised much later his death. His paintings sank into oblivion until the XXth century where surrealist painters discovered them. Friedrich even stopped painting at the end of his life for financial reasons. Yet he is nowadays considered as one of the most influent romantic German painters.

Friedrich major artworks

His most successful painting : the wanderer above the sea

The Wanderer above the Sea of Fog is the most famous painting of Caspar David Friedrich. Indeed, this painting is on its own the key to understand Friedrich’s philosophy. There we see a man from behind, which seems to be the painter himself, standing on a rock watching the sky. At first glance, the man seems to contemplate the landscape in front of him. However, observing more, we can deduce that it is about a man contemplating himself. The clouds thus represent the fate of the painter, that he only can observe.

Friedrich enhances melancholia and the painting conveys the following message: everything can be found in ourselves and only nature heals us. The painting is the answer to human existence and its absurdity. Facing the sea, nothing matters anymore, there is no space and time, the painter accepts his destiny and that he has no power to change it. Paradoxically, while for some the artwork reflects serenity, for others it illustrates the feeling of loneliness felt by Friedrich. Is it up to each person to interpret the painting their way, depending on their beliefs and experiences.

Other memorable paitings

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