Caspar David Friedrich was a German painter during the 1700s. Most of his painters were landscapes though a few do include people into the beautiful, wild nature of the German countryside. Some of his best known works are those landscapes which feature contemplative figures who, like the viewer, are looking out at the vast landscape, contemplating something that can only be guessed at. Friedrich’s paintings are anti-classical in style, going against the rival of the ideals of classical Greece and Rome, and instead are completed more in line with the works of the English painters John Constable and J.M.W. Turner.
A very famous painting by Friedrich is The Wanderer Above the Mists. A young gentleman stands in the foreground of the painting on a rocky outcropping, his back to the viewer. It is the mountains of the Ebsandsteingebirge in Saxony and Bohemia that Friedrich has painted. The mountains are cloaked in a sea of mist and fog. The wind that blows the misty fog also tousles the man’s hair and blows the tails of coat ever so slightly out behind him. It is a very otherworldly scene that we have stumbled upon, as beautiful as it is mysterious, and we too sit and contemplate that wondrous nature that brings us such magical vistas as this.
Another fantastic painting by Friedrich is The Abbey in the Oakwood. This is another mysterious landscape painting. The remnants of a church stand amid the dead trunks of old oak trees. It is only a part of a wall and a single gothic window that remain intact. Tall trees that have long since died populate the scene, their gnarled and twisted branches reaching up into the heavens. Tombstones litter the foreground, another element of death. The sky too lends a mysterious air to the painting. There is just enough light to see by, the sun either not yet risen or not yet completely set. However, there are none of the usual oranges and reds associated with either sunset or sunrise, only the darkness encroaching from both the top and bottom of the scene.
These mysterious landscapes were very popular at the height of Friedrich’s career. As the artist grew older, however, his work declined in popularity. It wasn’t until after Friedrich’s death that his works once again rose in fame as they were rediscovered by later generations. Today Friedrich’s beautiful landscapes once again captivate audiences across the globe.