Born: September 5, 1774, Greifswald, Swedish Pomerania (Germany)
Died: May 7, 1840
Caspar David Friedrich was a 19th century German Romantic painter who helped to establish landscape painting as one of the major genres in Western art. Working during a period of disillusionment throughout Europe – he was a part of a group of artists such as J.M.W. Turner and John Constable who depicted nature as divine. This concept was seen as moving beyond the normal ideal for a landscape (a pretty view) and adding the notion of the metaphysical and sublime. Friedrich’s work typically consists of allegorical landscapes with figures, seen from behind, contemplating a scenic view. Various elements would be included to portray a symbolic meaning, such as despair, troubles in life, death, redemption, or hope. The artist’s intent was to evoke an emotional response and spiritual connection through the contemplation of nature.
Friedrich studied art beginning in 1790 under Johann Gottfried Quistorp at the University of Greifswald. In 1794 he then entered the Academy of Copenhagen. Living in Copenhagen allowed Friedrich to study 17th century Dutch landscapes at the Royal Picture Gallery. Friedrich later settled in Dresden in 1798. Early on he tried printmaking with woodcuts and etchings, but mainly worked with ink and watercolor. He began working with oils once he became more established as an artist. In 1805 Friedrich won a price at the Weimar competition started by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, and in 1810 he was elected a member of the Berlin Academy, following the purchase of two of his paintings by the Prussian Crown Prince. Friedrich’s work is often described as having as sense of lonliness, which reflects the artist’s own life with bouts of depression and loss of friends and family members. With the rise of modernism in the late 19th century, Friedrich’s work fell out of favor with society since it no longer fit the ideals of an industrial age. However in the late 20th century his work gained a new appreciation and has been critically praised as a great influence on later artists such as Edvard Munch, Max Ernst and other surrealists, and Mark Rothko.
Art Institute of Chicago
Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg, Russia
J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
Louvre Museum, Paris
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City
Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
National Gallery, London
Neue Pinakothek, Munich, Germany
Städel Museum, Frankfurt, Germany
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